SEBRING, FL, Friday, March 19, 2010: Marino Franchitti kicked off Patrón Highcroft Racing's championship defense in the best possible fashion by scoring pole position in qualifying today for the opening race of 2010, the 58th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida.
Although Franchitti will only drive the major endurance races with David Brabham and Simon Pagenaud this year, the talented Scotsman was entrusted with the qualifying duties for the opening race of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón.
After again setting the fastest LMP2 class time in the morning practice - Franchitti completed a clean sweep in qualifying - taking the pole with a best time of 1 minute, 47.684 seconds.
The margin in qualifying was only .056 of a second as the warm afternoon weather caused a deterioration in track conditions. Franchitti actually suffered a small spin while keeping the opposition Porsche and Mazda entries at bay.
The performance completed an amazing run for the #1 Honda Performance Development, factory-backed ARX-01c machine which topped the LMP2 timesheet in every on-track session it contested this week.
Franchitti's time also put the Highcroft squad fifth on the grid for tomorrow's 12 hour enduro.
The pole was Franchitti's fifth in American Le Mans Series competition. The pole position is the second in a row for the ARX-01 chassis design. Last year's LMP2 pole time was only 1:49.686.
The result is also the seventh pole for Patrón Highcroft Racing and actually, the first not scored for the team by David Brabham.
Tomorrow's opening round of the championship will face the green flag at 10:30am with Simon Pagenaud taking the start for the Danbury, CT-based squad.
"The conditions were not as good as this morning and in turn one I was close to flat through there, but not quite.
"I am delighted for the Patrón Highcroft team. We're also welcoming our new sponsor GE this weekend and it is a great start but we all have to get the job done tomorrow.
"This is one trophy that I know Duncan wants to have in the trophy cabinet in Connecticut.
"I was really touched, amazed and happy to be asked to qualify the car. I didn't think I would get the opportunity this year but both my teammates gave me the backing to do that.
"When they asked me to do it, I was happy to accept. We still have a little bit of work to do on the car for tomorrow but we have done a really thorough job in testing and our recipe book is full of stuff that we can do to make it sweet for the race."
"Marino did a fantastic job. We knew it would be close and the practice times were not really showing the true situation.
"Once qualifying was underway everyone is always really hanging it out. The LMP2 class looks very close which is great for the fans.
"Patrón Highcroft Racing did a fantastic job in getting the set-up right. The conditions were changing all the time and it is a great moment for the team to start the year off on a high."
"I'm very happy. It is great to start on pole and Marino did a very good job. It will be very tight in the race as it seems the competition is up to speed.
"It will be interesting tomorrow to see what happens in the race. I'm really looking forward to it and can't wait for the green flag.
"We have a very quick car in the corners so I want to be able to take advantage of that and build a gap straight away.
"We'd prefer to dictate our own pace. Obviously if we are behind I'm not going to try anything silly, but we need to be up front very soon."