Monterey, Calif. — Bouncing back from the disappointments of Long Beach, Level 5 Motorsports and Scott Tucker turned their luck around with a commanding performance in qualifying Friday at Laguna Seca, as the three-time American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón champions will start 1-2 in tomorrow’s American Le Mans Monterey.
Marino Franchitti claimed his first ALMS pole position of the year, taking the No. 551 Siemens/Alpina Watches/Ohiya Casino Resort-sponsored Honda Performance Development ARX-03b to a quick lap of 1:16.642 in the 15-minute qualifying session. The Scot, returning to the 2.238-mile, 11-turn circuit for the first time since his overall victory here in 2010, edged out Level 5’s sister No. 552 entry of Ryan Briscoe by 0.360 seconds to lead a sweep of the P2 front row for the pair of Michelin-shod prototypes.
“After the tough race we had at Long Beach for Level 5, Scott, Ryan, myself, the whole team have been working hard to bounce back strong, and we’ve done that today,” said Franchitti, who earned his seventh career ALMS pole. “This was my first chance to qualify this year and I’m really delighted to get the pole. The cars are very close. We got 1-2; that was our aim. It was important to get that.”
Pole-sitter Franchitti and runner-up Briscoe will be joined by Tucker, who will pull double-duty between both No. 551 and No. 552 entries on race day. The Level 5 team principal enjoyed success of his own Friday, winning the opening Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda Master’s race and finishing an impressive third overall in the 30-minute sprint race.
All in all, it was a banner day for Level 5, which heads into Saturday’s four-hour ALMS race seeking its fourth consecutive victory in Monterey.
“We’re very pleased with the results from today,” said Tucker, a nine-time national driving champion. “It was great seeing Marino and Ryan battle for the pole and I had a good run in the Lites car. We’re in a good position for the race tomorrow and will be looking for a strong finish after a tough one at Long Beach. Everyone’s kept their heads up high and it’s been paying off. I’m optimistic for the race.”
Thanks to the usual high level of preparation from the David Stone-led organization, both of Level 5’s HPDs were quick out of the box, with the No. 552 car of Briscoe topping all three timed sessions from Thursday and Friday. When it came to qualifying, the IZOD IndyCar Series star narrowly missed out on claiming his third consecutive pole to Franchitti, who kept Level 5’s undefeated qualifying record alive.
“A 1-2 is a perfect way to start the weekend but we now have to do the job for four hours,” Franchitti added. “The ESM cars are strong, maybe not as strong as Long Beach, but they’ll be there over the race. If we slip up, they’ll be there. They are pushing us hard. The competition between the two teams are great. I’m very excited. With motor racing, you never know how it will play out, so we’ll take what comes to us and see how it turns out.”
The American Le Mans Monterey from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Saturday, May 11 is the third round of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón. ESPN2’s coverage begins at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 12 with live coverage is available on ESPN3 starting at 6:15 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 11. Live timing and scoring will be available at http://www.alms.com.