Porsche captures GTLM pole as Christensen shines in qualifying for Sebring 12H

Top six positions separated by 0.315 seconds

Porsche captures GTLM pole as Christensen shines in qualifying for Sebring 12H

Michael Christensen may not yet be a household name among U.S. sports car fans, but the 23-year-old Dane fully intends on changing that this season with a full-time TUDOR United SportsCar Championship ride for Porsche North America.

If Friday’s qualifying for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida is any indication, he’s not wasting any time, setting the fastest time in his No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR with a lap of one minute, 58.933 seconds (113.207 mph) in the always-competitive GT Le Mans (GTLM) class.

It was Christensen’s first qualifying attempt as a Porsche factory driver after being named to the manufacturer’s prestigious lineup in November.

“It’s the first time for me here (at Sebring) and the first time on the pole,” Christensen said. “We just need to drive as hard as possible. When the class is close like this, it’s going to be a long, long race. You have to keep a cool head as a driver and work well as a team over the wall.”

Porsche North America is off to a hot start in 2014 after winning the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona with the team’s No. 911 911 RSR, but if it wants to close out the prestigious Daytona-Sebring double, it will have to fend off tough competition from BMW and Chevrolet.

Dirk Mueller just missed the top spot in the No. 56 BMW Z4 GTE with a lap of 1:59.024 (113.120 mph) while BMW Team RLL teammate Bill Auberlen qualified third in the team’s No. 55 BMW Z4 GTE at 1:59.094 (113.054 mph).

Corvette Racing took the next two positions, followed by the Daytona-winning Porsche and the Risi Competizione Ferrari as the top six positions were separated by a mere 0.315 seconds.

Oliver Gavin qualified fourth with a lap of 1:59.222 (112.932 mph) in the No. 4 Corvette C7R co-driven by Tommy Milner and Robin Liddell, followed by teammate Antonio Garcia in the team’s No. 3 entry co-driven by Jan Magnussen and Ryan Briscoe, running 1:59.224 (112.930).

Richard Lietz was sixth in the class in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR he shares with Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet, running 1:59.248 (112.908 mph).

While the No. 62 Ferrari 458 Italia was fastest in Thursday’s practice, the car was involved in a Friday morning incident. The team was able to repair the vehicle in time for qualifying, with Gianmaria Bruni clocking in seventh fastest with a lap of 1:59.890 (112.303 mph) in the car he co-drives with Matteo Malucelli and Giancarlo Fisichella.

New Series, New Class, Same Result For Cameron Prior to the merger between the GRAND-AM Rolex Series and the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón, Dane Cameron had a presence in both of the series that now make up the unified TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. He earned a reputation as a top qualifier in the prototype ranks of both series, earning two Rolex Series DP-class poles and three ALMS PC-class poles.

Friday, Cameron used that experience in the TUDOR Championship’s production-based GT Daytona (GTD) ranks, earning the TOTAL Pole Award for Saturday’s Twelve Hours of Sebring, driving the No. 94 BMW Z4 for Turner Motorsport to a lap of 2:04.258 seconds (108.355 mph).

“It’s an amazing pole for an amazing event,” Cameron said. “I just glanced at the time sheets and the top six or seven cars are within a second of each other. It shows you won’t be able to give up any time on the track or the pit lane.”

Parity was certainly the story in GTD qualifying with five manufacturers making up the top five positions, all separated by a mere 0.202 seconds. Leh Keen just missed the top spot in the No. 22 Weather Tech Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT America with a lap of 2:04.268 (108.346 mph) while Jeroen Bleekemolen’s No. 33 Viper Exchange SRT Viper GT3-R rounded out the top three at 2:04.311 (108.309 mph). Those three lapped in within just 0.043 seconds of each other.

James Davison and his No. 007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage qualified fourth with a lap 2:04.320 (108.301 mph) while Alessandro Balzan rounded out the top five in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia at 2:04.460 (108.179 mph).

IMSA

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