Monterey, Calif. — Having claimed pole position, fastest race lap and a dominant 1-2 finish, you couldn’t have scripted a better weekend for Level 5 Motorsports, which took its fourth consecutive class victory in the American Le Mans Monterey, the third round of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón.
Nine-time national driving champion Scott Tucker teamed with Marino Franchitti to take the No. 551 Siemens/Alpina Watches/Ohiya Casino Resort-sponsored Honda Performance Development ARX-03b to victory lane Saturday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, in a race the two-time and defending P2 champions led virtually from flag to flag.
Both Tucker, who started the No. 551 car from the pole, as well as the No. 552 HPD of Ryan Briscoe, enjoyed time out front, as its competition, which struggled to match the pace of the two Level 5 entries all weekend, faced issues of their own early in the four-hour race. While still having to face the challenges of the 2.238-mile, 11-turn circuit, and the changing track conditions, the three drivers didn’t put a wheel wrong all day.
“We knew it was going to be pretty tough with our competitors having the same car,” said Tucker, who earned his 19th ALMS victory, and nears a milestone 100th career win. “We had a pretty good strategy with the Michelin tires and just the overall mood of the team was really good. Things went pretty well at the start. We had flawless pit stops and the race came to us.”
In addition to sweeping ALMS honors, Tucker also claimed victories in the two Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda races, making it a perfect weekend for both driver and team. The Level 5 team principal was again one of the busiest drivers during the race, completing double stints in both the No. 551 and No. 552 cars.
“We’re real fortunate with the performance. I am proud of the entire team,” Tucker added. “Everything went to plan. It was one of those weekends where things go your way. We’ll take it!”
Pole-sitter Franchitti, who closed out driving duties in the race-winning No. 551 car, also set the fastest P2 lap of the race (1:18.458), showcasing the continued strength of the proven HPD package, which Level 5 has continued to refine since debuting at Laguna Seca nearly two years ago.
“It was a perfect weekend and a great way for Level 5 to bounce back after a tough weekend at Long Beach,” Franchitti said. “This is what we needed. The guys have been working day and night preparing for this race. Scott, myself and Ryan have worked really hard with the engineers on the setup of the car and I think it showed today. It was very tough out there. Conditions were really challenging with lots of dirt and tire pickup. But everything was flawless for Level 5 this weekend and that was very exciting going into the big one at Le Mans.”
“It was a nice turnaround after the troubles we had at Long Beach,” said team manager David Stone. “Getting our fourth win in a row here feels really good. Laguna has always been a good track for me personally, so it’s really nice. We can now leave here with two good cars with no damage. It will be an easier turnaround for the guys in preparing for Le Mans as we don’t have a lot of time before they have to be on a plane.
“We’ll now go to Le Mans and hope for a good result,” Stone added. “I feel good about our new engineers that are on board. Piers Phillips and Matt Greasely are doing a real good job. I think we have a good driver lineup with Scott, Marino and Ryan, so it feels good getting ready for that.”
Next up is the 90th anniversary 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 22-23, where Level 5 will enter its HPD ARX-03b for Tucker, Briscoe and Franchitti in a bid for LMP2 class victory in the world’s greatest endurance race. An official test day is scheduled for June 9, followed by two days of qualifying on June 19-20. SPEED TV will carry live coverage of the race.