Qualifying - IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship

March 15, 2024

  • Three Porsche 963 qualify in the midfield of the top GTP class
  • Works driver Mathieu Jaminet doing well after qualifying accident
  • Strong qualifying performance at Sebring from the customer-run 963 cars
  • AO Racing's Porsche 911 GT3 R third fastest in the GTD Pro class
  • 12-hour race in Florida gets underway on Saturday at 9:40 am local time

The No. 7 Porsche 963 fielded by the Porsche Penske Motorsport works team will tackle the 12-hour race at Sebring from fifth on the grid. In the qualifying session, Brazilian Felipe Nasr planted the 508 kW (691 PS) hybrid prototype on the third grid row. His works driver colleague Mathieu Jaminet from France walked away from an accident at the wheel of the No. 6 sister car uninjured. The customer 963 race cars campaigned by JDC-Miller MotorSports and Proton Competition finished sixth and seventh respectively. In the GTD Pro class, AO Racing's Porsche 911 GT3 R set the third-fastest qualifying time.

Stuttgart. In bright sunshine and air temperatures of almost 30 degrees Celsius, the eleven-strong field contesting the top GTP class went out on the racetrack as soon as the session was given the green light. The aim was to carefully warm up the Michelin tyres for maximum grip to clock the fastest lap time from the third lap onwards. However, this strategy came to an abrupt end: At around the five-minute mark, works driver Mathieu Jaminet crashed into the track barrier at the exit of the first corner at the wheel of the No. 6 car. "I'm okay," was the Frenchman's immediate response on the radio. However, this put an early end to the session for Porsche Penske Motorsport's 963.

After the debris was cleared, the stewards reopened the Sebring International Raceway for another 3:30 minutes. A gripping battle for the best grid positions unfolded, which saw Felipe Nasr claim P5 at the wheel of the Daytona-winning car. The identical hybrid cars from JDC-Miller MotorSports and Proton Competition followed in sixth and seventh place.

"This result is nowhere near what we expected," says Urs Kuratle. The Director Factory Motorsport LMDh adds: "Mathieu Jaminet had an accident. We'll take a close look at the data to figure out what happened there. The most important thing is that he's okay. Our starting positions could be better, but there are twelve hours of racing ahead of us. We'll get our chances. I remain confident."

"Qualifying at Sebring is held at the hottest time of the day, which always makes it difficult. We lacked a bit of pace," explains Jonathan Diuguid, Managing Director Porsche Penske Motorsport. "Unfortunately, the session was interrupted due to Mathieu Jaminet's accident. Now, we have to repair the number 6 car and analyse what exactly happened. Felipe Nasr only had two fast laps left at the end. Let's see what we can make happen in the race."

In the top GTP class, the two customer-run Porsche 963 entries of JDC-Miller MotorSports and Proton Competition qualified in sixth and seventh place. At one point, the UK race driver Phil Hanson topped the GTP-class timesheet before Jaminet's accident halted the session but was unable to make any decisive progress at the wheel of the American team's No. 85 car. Former Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer from France planted Proton Competition's Porsche 963 on a strong seventh place in his first GTP qualifying session.

GT classes: Another strong qualifying for AO Racing's Porsche 911 GT3 R
The Porsche customer teams tackling the two GT categories only managed to partially meet expectations. The 911 GT3 R fielded by AO Racing achieved another strong result in the GTD Pro class: Daytona polesitter Sebastian Priaulx put the "Rexy" 911 on P3. The Englishman shares the cockpit with works driver Michael Christensen from Denmark and former Porsche Junior Laurin Heinrich from Germany. In the GTD category, the three ca. 415 kW (565 PS) 911 cars from Wright Motorsports, Andretti Motorsports and MDK Motorsports will start from positions 15, 18 and 19.

Round two of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season kicks off tomorrow, Saturday, at 9:40 am local time (2:40 pm CET). The 72nd running of the 12-hour race in Sebring may turn into a milestone for Porsche and its partner team Penske: The car manufacturer from Stuttgart could clinch its 600th victory in the North American IMSA, and for the Penske team, this would mark the 100th victory in sports car racing.

At the endurance classic in Florida, the two Porsche 963 fielded by the Porsche Penske Motorsport works team will be decked out in slightly different liveries. This weekend, the logos of long-standing partner Mobil 1 will shine in gold. This is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the renowned lubricant brand of the mineral oil company ExxonMobil.

Drivers' comments after the qualifying
Mathieu Jaminet (Porsche 963 #6): "We'd hoped for a better result for our number 6 Porsche 963. I'm fine so far, but I'm very sorry about the accident and for the Porsche Penske Motorsport team and all my colleagues at Porsche in Weissach. Unfortunately, the guys now have a bit of work to do on our car. It's a shame because the Porsche was running brilliantly on my first lap. A grid position in the top three would have been within reach. Now, we can only look ahead to the race. If our car is competitive again there, we have twelve hours to make up ground."

Felipe Nasr (Porsche 963 #7): "The result is okay. On Thursday, we initially had to overcome a few obstacles in setting up the car during the free practice sessions. It took us a very long time to find a decent car balance in these hot conditions. In the end, it went quite well. A lot can still happen in the race. I'm confident that we can continue to fight our way up the order."

Qualifying result
GTP class:

1. Derani/Aitken/Blomqvist (BR/UK/MC), Cadillac V-Series.R #31, 1:48.152 minutes
2. Bourdais/Van der Zande/Dixon (F/NL/NZ), Cadillac V-Series.R #01, 1:48.299 minutes
3. Eng/Krohn/Farfus (A/SF/MC), BMW M Hybrid V8 #24, 1:48.829 minutes
5. Nasr/Cameron/Campbell (BR/USA/AUS), Porsche 963 #7, 1:49.179 minutes
6. Hanson/Van der Helm/Westbrook (UK/NL/UK), Porsche 963 #85, 1:49.258 minutes
7. Andlauer/Bruni/Picariello (F/I/B), Porsche 963 #5, 1:49.274 minutes
10. Jaminet/Tandy/Makowiecki (F/UK/F), Porsche 963 #6, no time