The reigning IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar GTLM champion beat teammate Tommy Milner to pole by just 0.034sec as the Corvette C8.Rs locked out the front row.
But this year GT Daytona-class cars have two qualifying sessions: the first is run with the Silver- or Bronze-rated drivers at the wheel and sets the grid line-up for the race; the second earns points and features the Platinum- and Gold-rated drivers, but sees them out on track with the GTLM-class cars.
Given Sebring’s 3.74-mile length, even with the fastest drivers at the wheel, a GTD car laps over 4sec per lap slower, and with up to 13 GTD entries on track, the five GTLM cars – the Corvettes, the BMW M8s and the Porsche 911 RSR – can easily hit traffic which is unwilling to cede track position, given that they too are on flying laps.
“It was very stressful!” said a relieved Garcia afterward. “We are not used to qualifying together with the GTD cars, so initially it was very difficult for us to gauge how much room you had to fall back in order not to catch them. It seemed like no matter how much we were back, we were still catching them.
“I knew Tommy was coming from behind me, so I couldn’t really open a gap; I didn’t want to bother him. The first attempt was really bad. The second one I thought I had enough gap but had to dive for a pass going into Turn 17. I knew it was a good lap, so I had to go for it.
“I’m very happy for Corvette. It’s always good to have Corvette Racing up there 1-2, even if it is a long race. Let’s see if we can keep those positions like we did at Daytona.”
The Rolex 24 winner added: “We are just used to qualifying alone, so we need to get used to this. For the first race, it was a little bit of a shock for us because we didn’t know how to place ourselves on track not to interfere with them and for them to not interfere with us. That’s the key thing.
“They have 12-13 cars in that category so it’s always difficult around Sebring anyway. When it comes to shorter races, I don’t know what’s going to happen. Sebring is a long track. I think we all more or less got a clean lap but for sure it was stressful.”