Austin, TX. — Overcoming challenging weather conditions, Level 5 Motorsports continued its undefeated pole-winning record in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón this year, as Marino Franchitti claimed the top qualifying position for Saturday’s race at Circuit of The Americas.
Franchitti, driving the No. 552 Siemens/Alpina Watches/Ohiya Casino Resort-sponsored Honda Performance Development ARX-03b prototype, showed dominant form in Friday’s 15-minute qualifying session at the new, state-of-the-art circuit. The Scot recorded a best lap of 2:10.573 in wet conditions, which was more than 1.3 seconds clear of Level 5’s competition in the P2 class.
“It was a good job by the Level 5 team and I’m delighted to be on the pole in Austin,” said Franchitti, who earned his ninth career ALMS pole position. “It was very difficult. It was very greasy out there and you needed the wet tires. It wasn’t dry enough for slicks. The wet tires were burning up and overheating very quickly.
Level 5’s two HPD prototypes have been quick since unloading off the truck early this week. Franchitti set the two quickest times overall in Tuesday’s test, while Ryan Briscoe backed it up with the pace-setting lap on Thursday. However, a hub failure on Briscoe’s out lap in qualifying denied the IndyCar star from setting a quick lap in the session.
Starting up front for tomorrow’s two-hour and 45-minute race, Franchitti and co-driver Guy Cosmo will be looking for their second consecutive victory after a dominant outing on the streets of Baltimore earlier this month. Briscoe and team principal Scott Tucker, a nine-time national driving champion, will roll off from 4th on the P2 grid and with three races to go, will be aiming to make up ground on the P2 championship.
“It was great having the 552 car and Marino on the pole, but what happened to the 551 was disappointing,” said Level 5 team manager David Stone. “Fortunately, the part failed at low speed and didn’t damage the car or hurt the driver, so that was the important thing. We’ll be spending the time between now and the race to make sure the problem doesn’t repeat itself. The weather looks a bit questionable for tomorrow, but I don’t think it changes anything from our end. We have a good race car in the dry and wet.”
With temperatures expected in the mid-to-high 90s, along with the nature of the F1-designed track, Stone is expecting a near flat-out race, which could test both man and machine.
"It's always good to have the setup knowledge from a test,” Stone added. “We might be a little bit ahead of our competition since we had a couple of days of solid testing last month. COTA is a very fast track, as everyone knows. As it's such a modern track, I don't anticipate a lot of full course yellows because there's not a lot of places to get hung up. Unless somebody gets into other cars or a barrier, I'm expecting it to be a pretty green race.”
Level 5 Motorsports