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Pla Storms to 12H Sebring Pole

Olivier Pla takes Shank Ligier JS P2 Honda to pole at Sebring…

Photo: Brian Cleary/

Photo: Brian Cleary/

Rebounding from adversity, Michael Shank Racing will start Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring from the overall pole, leading a Ligier JS P2 Honda sweep of the front row.

Olivier Pla took the car to a quick lap of 1:51.217 — less than 24 hours after a massive accident by co-driver John Pew in night practice — for the team’s first pole of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.

The Frenchman edged out the Rolex 24 at Daytona-winning No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Ligier-Honda of Pipo Derani by 0.174 seconds in the heated 15-minute qualifying session.

It marked Pla’s second consecutive Sebring pole after taking top qualifying honors here last year with Krohn Racing and the first for the team since Daytona 2015 with Ozz Negri.

Dane Cameron, who had topped the time sheets in two of the four practice sessions, qualified his No. 31 Action Express Racing Corvette DP third overall with a 1:51.943 lap.

He was followed by the sister No. 5 entry of Christian Fittipaldi, who had an 0ff-course excursion by the Brazilian in the closing minutes of the session.

The No. 55 Mazda Prototype, qualified by Tristan Nunez, completed the top-five overall, but was a distant 1.7 seconds slower than than Pla’s pole-sitting lap.

CORE autosport’s Colin Braun stormed to the class pole in Prototype Challenge, with the defending class champion reeling off a 1:54.910 lap in his No. 54 Oreca FLM09.

Braun edged out the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry of Tom Kimber-Smith by a considerable 0.933 seconds for his first pole since Indianapolis in 2014.

He’ll share driving duties with Mark Wilkins and team owner Jon Bennett tomorrow.

Daytona class pole-sitter Johnny Mowlem was third in the No. 20 BAR1 Motordports entry, with James French (Performance Tech) and Alex Popow (Starworks Motorsport), in fourth and fifth, respectively.

Remarkably, the top-five was separated by a hefty 2.3 seconds, with the large gap owed to debut of a new electronics package many teams are still coming to grips with.

The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring is set for Saturday at 10:40 a.m. ET.

RESULTS: Qualifying

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John


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