Honda Sweeps Front Row in Sebring Qualifying

- Olivier Pla, Michael Shank Racing claim first pole of 2016 for Honda

- Pipo Derani, Tequila Patron ESM to start on the outside front row

- Pole-winning team rebounds from crash the previous night

Mar 18, 2016, 19:20 ET from Honda Racing

SEBRING, Fla., March 18, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- In a stirring duel between two Honda-powered drivers, Olivier Pla and Michael Shank Racing edged the similar Tequila Patron ESM machine of Luis Felipe "Pipo" Derani at Sebring International Raceway on Friday to claim the pole for Saturday's Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring endurance sports car race.

Pla and Derani battled fiercely throughout the 15-minute prototype qualifying session, both drivers extracting maximum performance from their Ligier JS P2 Hondas, with Pla finally prevailing by just 18 hundredths of a second. It was Pla's third career IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship pole and second consecutive pole at Sebring.

Pla's pole was just reward for the hard-working MSR team, as the car was damaged in a crash during Thursday night's practice session, with the team working until 3 a.m. to complete repairs, prior to returning to the central Florida circuit at 8 a.m. this morning for final practice and qualifying.

Victors last month at the season-opening 24 Hours of Daytona, Derani and his Tequila Patron ESM Honda will start on the outside of the front row, and the manufacturer scored its first qualifying sweep in the new era of sports car competition that resulted from the merger of the American Le Mans Series and Grand-Am in 2014.

Earlier today, Honda also finished 1-2 in the Street Tuner division of the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race at Sebring, as Owen Trinkler and Sarah Cattaneo drove their Honda Civic Si to victory in the two hour, 30-minute contest over the similar Honda Civic Si of Chad Gilsinger and Michael Valiante.

The 64th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring starts at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, with live television coverage of the opening 90 minutes on the Fox Sports 1, and additional coverage throughout the race on Fox Sports 2 and Fox Sports Go.

Olivier Pla (#60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier Honda) Sebring pole qualifier:  "This was a great effort from the entire team.  The guys had to rebuild the car after a crash [in practice] last night, and I had to extract the maximum from myself and the car.  It was tough, but we did it together.  We made one small setup change from this morning, and it paid off big for us today.  The weather for tomorrow is uncertain [rain is in the forecast], so the race will have its own challenges.  We'll be ready."

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SOURCE Honda Racing