Level 5 Motorsports Qualifies on Pole for 12 Hours of Sebring
Level 5 Motorsports and Scott Tucker will start on the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón P2 pole for Saturday’s 60th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, following a solid performance that had an unfortunate end in a dramatic qualifying session for America’s oldest endurance race.
After dominating the time sheets all week long, even among the international competitors vying for the FIA World Endurance Championship, Level 5 headed into qualifying confident of continued success. However, lap traffic dashed hopes of an overall LMP2 pole for the No. 055 car of Christophe Bouchut or Luis Diaz’s No. 95 Alpina Watches-sponsored prototype, after the Frenchman got caught out by a slow car existing the revised pit lane.
“I arrived in Turn 1 and in the middle of the corner, suddenly a car came from the exit of pit lane and onto my line,” Bouchut explained. “I had to decide to do something, so I tried to go to the left, but I hit the wall and I spun. From my perspective, at that time, there was nothing else I could do, or else the car would have hit me and then it would have been worse than what happened.”
Moments before Bouchut’s incident, he had set a 1:52.129 lap time, which held for the P2 class pole for he and co-drivers Tucker and Joao Barbosa. It proved to be a bitter-sweet end to the day, with the No. 055 car on the top spot for Saturday’s race, but having also sustained bodywork damage during the high-speed accident.
The red flag ultimately ended the session early, resulting in Level 5’s No. 95 car of Diaz unable to also mount a challenge for the overall pole. The Mexican driver’s 1:52.659 lap time was good enough for third best on the ALMS grid in the car he will share with Tucker and IndyCar star Ryan Hunter-Reay.
“I don't think the result shows what we're capable of doing,” Diaz said. “It was a difficult qualifying because we had very few laps. We chose a tire compound that was hard to bring up to temperature. But we made all the right decisions. It's a long race and we know we have a good car. So we have to keep thinking about that.”
Team manager David Stone added: “We’ve had a closer look at the car and we have all the spare parts needed, which is good news. The guys are going to have a long night, but I know we have the motivation and labor to get it back together. It’s a long race and it will be important for both cars to stay out of trouble, especially as we be low on spares considering today’s unfortunate incident.”
Despite the slight setback, the team heads in with plenty of confidence, as Level 5 and Tucker seek their third consecutive Sebring class victory. The five-time national driving champion has already gotten off to a great start this week, having won both Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda support races at Sebring and will now look to add another P2 trophy to kick off his ALMS title defense.
“We know the HPD ARX-03b is a competitive package all the way around,” Tucker said. “There are some quick teams out there that we’ll have to fight hard with but we feel like we have good equipment. Reliability is always a big issue in this race but I think we’ve shown to have cars that can get to the finish. We just have to stay out of trouble tomorrow.”
The 2012 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón begins with the 60th Anniversary Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida on Saturday on March 17. The race, set for 10:30 a.m. ET, will be broadcast at noon March 18 on ABC and shown live on ESPN3.