In only its second race with its latest new car, the BMW M8 GTE, BMW Team RLL has secured the top spot in GT Le Mans class qualifying for Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, Round 2 of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
Connor De Phillippi took the No. 25 BMW M8 to a best time of 1:55.839 around the 3.74-mile Sebring International Raceway circuit.
This is a considerably impressive effort because it’s a new chassis, after the team had an incident during the February test here which required repairs.
“We’ve been on it since Daytona. The guys have poured their hearts into this project. Obviously at the Sebring test we had a slight hiccup, and the team had to build a new car. I think this performance today really goes to them. It shows what they’ve done since then over the last couple weeks. All the long hours,” he said.
De Phillippi led Friday morning’s practice session, which was held in significantly cooler conditions than the afternoon qualifying session. Per Michelin engineers, the temperatures rose from 48 degrees ambient and 53 on track up to 80 ambient and 100 on track for qualifying.
“That was a question mark for all of us,” De Phillippi said of the changing temperatures. “This was our first time to get comfortable in the car. We overshot it compared to yesterday, balance wise. We tried to find the balance in the middle. I was super happy with the car. It’s just a testament to what they’ve put in the last couple weeks.”
The young American, named to the BMW Team RLL factory team this year after a successful GT3 career, shares the No. 25 car with Alexander Sims and Bill Auberlen. Auberlen is in his 25th Sebring race, and does so in the same number car.
Risi Competizione slotted into second with the class-lone No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE, qualified by James Calado. The Englishman was just 0.058 off the pace. These two cars were under last year’s pole lap, a 1:55.939 by Ryan Briscoe in the No. 67 Ford GT.
Jesse Krohn was third in the second BMW, the No. 24 car.
The remaining two cars from Ford, Porsche and Corvette complete the nine-car class, with the pair of Fords in fourth and fifth, the Porsches split in sixth and eighth and the two Corvettes split in seventh and ninth.
Corvette Racing seeks its fourth consecutive victory at Sebring this weekend, while Ford Chip Ganassi Racing is looking to complete a “36 Hours of Florida” sweep of both Sebring and January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Tristan Vautier (1:47.732, P and overall) and Daniel Serra (1:58.710, GTD) scored the other two class pole positions. Vautier will roll off in the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Cadillac DPi.V-R and Serra in the No. 51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3.
Television coverage begins Saturday at 10:30 a.m. ET on FS1, with coverage spread across the FOX Sports Networks. IMSA Radio has live flag-to-flag radio coverage.