Scott Dixon admits he was surprised to have taken the new Acura ARX-02a to pole position on its debut ahead of the Sebring 12 Hours, not least because he had only completed 18 laps prior to the qualifying session.
The de Ferran Motorsport prepared Acura stunned seasoned competitors Audi and Peugeot to snatch the top spot on the first outing for the new LMP1 prototype, an feat made all the more impressive given their rivals had been consistently quicker in testing all week.
Nonetheless, Dixon hooked up a lap of 1min 45.278secs to be on the right side of a three tenth gap between pole position and fifth place.
A remarkable achievement for the team too, which only entered the American Le Mans Series midway through last season, Dixon – who will share the car with team owner Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud – admits his lap didn't come from hours of pounding around the Florida circuit.
“I did hope that we would be up there in the top three or four but we have had such a mixed time in testing this week that it was really hard to predict anything,” he said. “It's been a really crazy week and although I have been here four or five days I have only really completed about 18 laps. You don't really get much of a chance to 'read' the car.
“Earlier in the week the track seemed nicer to drive but as the week went on I was really finding a lot of understeer in turns 15 and 16; you had to take it very easily around there you really can't throw the car around.
“I thought the Audis were handling the track better but I think the heat this afternoon helped us and the more laps we did the quicker the car. I am not used to that!”
de Ferran was also delighted with the result, particularly given the project remains very much in the early stages of development.
“I am overwhelmed,” he said. “There have been many long nights leading up to this moment and it is a great reward for everyone involved in the program. The team is not even a year old and the project is even younger. There has been a huge amount of work compressed into such a short development time, so for us to be sitting on pole for Saturday's race is absolutely magnificent for everyone in de Ferran Motorsports and Acura
Looking ahead to the race – the longest on the ALMS calendar -, Dixon admits reliability, which has been a concern for all three LMP1 teams, will play the crucial role.
“Like any long distance race it is all down to reliability. We have had some issues in the early testing but things have smoothed out this week. The car gets quicker and quicker over the course of a stint which is good news, but this is a brand new car and reliability will be the key I'm sure. We have proved we are quick now we have to be consistent.”