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SEBRING, Fla. (AP) — Cadillac dominated the season-opening IMSA SportsCar championship race. It didn't seem that would change at the Twelve Hours of Sebring, where the three new Cadillac DPi cars led the Prototype class by pacing the leaderboard in three of the four practice sessions.
Then the qualifying session produced record-breaking speeds and a surprise pole winner.
Neel Jani led Rebellion Racing to a track record at Sebring International Speedway by taking the pole with the fastest lap of 1 minute, 48.178 seconds. The Rebellion team thought Daytona was "a disaster," said Jani, referencing its finish in 31st place.
Jani's lap at Sebring was just slightly ahead of the fastest Cadillac. The No. 5 Action Express entry driven by Christian Fittipaldi qualified second at 1:48.273, and he was followed by Action Express teammate Eric Curran in the No. 31 Cadillac DPi, with a lap of 1:48.314.
Fittipaldi ran out of fuel on his final lap.
"We didn't expect it, to be honest," Jani said.
Jani said Sebring's unique character, mostly defined by the bumpiest, most abrasive surface of the entire IMSA season, means that a driver has to "improvise every lap. There is no ideal lap at Sebring. It's too bumpy," Jani said.
The third Cadillac, the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing entry driven by Ricky Taylor, qualified in sixth. That car won overall at Daytona. Qualifying in fourth was Jose Gutierrez in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Ligier P2 car, and fifth was Brendon Hartley in the No. 22 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi.
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing claimed the top two spots in GT Le Mans qualifying led by Ryan Briscoe in the No. 67 GT. Briscoe smashed the class track qualifying record and edged the Ganassi sister car driven by Dirk Mueller.
Mueller, in the No. 66 Ford GT, is going for a third-consecutive major endurance race victory alongside co-drivers Joey Hand and Sebastien Bourdais. The trio won the 24 Hours of Le Mans last June and the Rolex 24 in January. Bourdais also won last Sunday's IndyCar season opener in St. Petersburg.
Gustavo Yacaman qualified on the pole position in the Prototype Challenge class and Tristan Vautier gave the new Mercedes-AMG program its first pole in the GT Daytona class. The 12 Hours of Sebring starts Saturday morning. Track records were set in qualifying in each class except for PC.
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