Ricky Taylor understood the pressure he faced, and used it to his advantage.
Taylor, trying to chase down the fastest qualifiers, turned in the fastest lap Friday to win the Motul Pole Award for Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts.
“I get nervous before every single race or qualifying – any time you have to do something where there are stakes on the line and you have to do your best,” Taylor said. “I think if you’re not nervous or don’t feel the importance of it, you’re not going to get the most out of yourself and your equipment. I think having the pressure on is going to bring us to the best of our game."
In Taylor’s case, the best was a nearly perfect lap around Sebring International Raceway’s 17-turn, 3.74-mile circuit. Taylor was clocked at 1 minute, 46.874 seconds (125.979 mph) in the No. 7 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05 DPi. That topped Renger van der Zande’s best lap of 1:47.125 in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. It is the sixth consecutive pole position for Acura Team Penske in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition this season.
Taylor, who will share the No. 7 Acura with Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi, is co-leading the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) driver standings with Castroneves, while also helping the No. 7 lead the team championship.
They are just two points ahead of the No. 10 Cadillac and Van der Zande and his full-season co-driver, Ryan Briscoe. The No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing entry will be joined Saturday by six-time IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon.
“It’s such an amazing way to end a championship,” Taylor said of the duel with his dad’s team. “As a fan, you want it to come down to the last race. Basically, whoever wins the race wins the championship. I don’t think you could have scripted it any better. To be racing against the (No.) 10 car, of all teams, is really weird, but it’s fun. I wouldn’t want to be racing against anybody else.”
The No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac and driver Pipo Derani have remote hopes of pulling out the team and driver titles, sitting nine points behind the No. 7. Derani, who’ll share the No. 31 with Felipe Nasr and Gabby Chaves, qualified sixth on Friday. Derani, Nasr and Eric Curran won last year’s Twelve Hours of Sebring in the No. 31.
Kelly Adapts and Puts No. 52 ORECA on LMP2 Pole
Patrick Kelly expected the unexpected on his way to winning the pole in the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class with a lap of 1:51.373 (120.890 mph) in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07.
“It was ‘Be ready to adapt,’” Kelly said. “I went into it and was like, ‘OK, send it, but be ready to adapt. Don’t plan on it being the same car again.’ It hasn’t been the same car in any two practice sessions yet.”
Kelly, who shares the No. 52 with Simon Trummer and Scott Huffaker, topped the best lap by the No. 51 Inter Europol Competition ORECA LMP2 07 driven by Naveen Rao, who is fresh from winning the IMSA Prototype Challenge championship last month with Matthew Bell. Rao, Bell and Jakub Smiechowski will share the No. 51.
NBC Sports’ live coverage of the full Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts begins at 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN. It moves to NBC at 3 p.m. before returning to NBCSN at 6 p.m. until the race’s conclusion.