No. 14 Lexus’ Road to Redemption Starts with Sebring GTD PRO Pole

By Jeff Olson and David Phillips

IMSA Wire Service

Vasser Sullivan’s championship winner from the 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season has bounced back from its issues at Daytona in January.

Jack Hawksworth posted a class-record lap of 1 minute, 58.714 seconds (113.415 mph) in the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 in Friday’s qualifying session to claim the Motul Pole Award in the Grand Touring Daytona Por (GTD PRO) class for the 72nd Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac.

The No. 14 Lexus and co-drivers Hawksworth, Ben Barnicoat and Kyle Kirkwood will start first among all GT cars and 23rd overall in the 58-car field when the race takes the green flag at 9:40 a.m. ET Saturday. Flag-to-flag coverage streams live on Peacock beginning at 9:30 a.m., with USA Network joining at 4 p.m. through the finish.

“This is nice,” Hawksworth said after exiting the car. “I don’t think I’ve had (a pole position) here before. This is cool. It’s a big race, so it’s always nice to start up front.

“The team did a really good job kind of dropping me into a nice gap,” he added. “Completely clear track, could bring my tires in the way I wanted to, then could put a nice lap in.”

Mario Farnbacher locked down the No. 2 GTD PRO starting position (and fifth among GT cars) with a lap of 1:59.264 (112.892 mph) in the No. 23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Evo he shares with full-season drivers Alex Riberas and Ross Gunn.

Seb Priaulx was clocked at 1:59.446 (112.720 mph) in “Rexy,” the No. 77 AO Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R (992) with the fan-favorite dinosaur livery that he co-drives with Laurin Heinrich and Michael Christensen.

The pole award marked a recovery of sorts for Vasser Sullivan’s GTD PRO entry, which qualified second in class for the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona but was caught up in an early crash and finished 11th in class.

“(Sebring) is a 12-hour race, so much can happen,” Hawksworth said. “Obviously we had the incident at Daytona, but the guys obviously really turned up here. We feel pretty strong. We’re ready to rip tomorrow. We’re ready to get after it and go have some fun.”

Worth the Wait: Cetilar Ferrari Awarded GTD Pole

Antonio Fuoco and Cetilar Racing had to wait over an hour to learn where their Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) Ferrari will line-up for the start of Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac, but the delay was worth it. The No. 47 Ferrari 296 GT3 will start from the GTD pole and second among all GT cars following the demotion of the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 for running unapproved sensors during the qualifying session.

“It was a good qualy,” Fuoco said. “Starting on pole position for the Twelve Hour, we know it’s going to be really tough for tomorrow especially with the conditions are quite warm. But we will try to do our best.”

History shows the best that Cetilar, Fuoco and co-drivers Roberto Lacorte and Giorgio Sernagiotto can do is pretty good. The same combination of drivers and team won the 2022 Sebring Twelve Hours GTD class in a Ferrari 488 GT3 – the predecessor of the 296 GT3 they’re racing this weekend – taking the checkered flag nearly a minute clear of second place. Fuoco was credited with the fastest GTD lap (2:01.213) in the race.

On Friday, Fuoco clocked a best lap of 1:59.014 (113.129 mph) to edge the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus of Parker Thompson by 0.029 seconds. Philip Ellis had the fastest lap of GTD in the No. 57 Winward Mercedes (1:58.778) but the car was moved to the rear of the field after the sensor infraction was discovered in post-qualifying technical inspection.

Mikael Grenier was third fastest in the revised GTD lineup with a lap of 1:59.350 (112.810 mph) in the No. 32 Korthoff/Peterson Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3. Twenty-two GTD cars will take the green flag in Saturday’s 12-hour race, along with 12 in the GTD PRO class.