Joe Jennings, ALMS Correspondent
In an intense street fight in downtown Baltimore, the Level 5 Motorsports HPD ARX-03b of Scott Tucker and Christophe Bouchut scored an upset victory in the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT. The two-hour race marked the eighth round of the American LeMans Series season.
The victory by the potent P2 team came after the faster P1 teams of the favored Muscle Milk Pickett Racing and two Dyson Racing entries dropped back with mechanical and bodywork woes. Each returned to action but at a slower pace, and the Muscle Milk entry went off the track on the last lap.
I think we deserved the win, but I had no expectations for an overall win.
The last time a P2 car scored an overall win was at Detroit in 2008 with James Rossiter and Franck Montagny. At Sebring earlier this year, a Level 5 car was the highest placing ALMS car, but they did not score the overall win in the combined event with the World Endurance Championship.
Today’s winners moved to the front in the final half hour after a team car had an issue.
Two late-race caution periods bunched the field, setting up an enormous battle for position in all classes over the final laps. And in the final minutes a severe weather report came in and fans were being asked to take cover. The rain didn’t actually start until the victory podium ceremonies got underway.
Said Tucker about the victory, “We took no chances with the car, and our plan worked today. I think we deserved the win, but I had no expectations for an overall win. Beating P1 and winning P2 is special. We will put this win in a bottle and save it.”
Bouchut expressed delight with the win. “Our car ran very well today, and my goal was to win the class. But it is exciting to win overall. It was a wonderful day for us.”
The winners completed 67 laps and they led the final 11 laps. Their margin of victory was 2.158 seconds.
Second overall and second in P2 was the second Level 5 entry of Tucker, Luis Diaz and Ricardo Gonzalez.
Third overall and the PC class winner was the Oreca FLM09 of Alex Popow and Ryan Dalziel.
Fourth overall and the top finisher in the highly competitive GT class was the Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Bryan Sellers and sport-car ace Wolf Henzler.
Five GT entries trailed the class winner and the second place PC entry of Bruno Junqueira and Tomy Drissi completed the top-10 finishers.
For the second year in a row, the P1 winner was the second Dyson Racing Lola Mazda entry, and this time it was driven by Michael Marsal and Eric Lux, each of whom scored their first P1 triumph.
They finished 13th overall and the primary Dyson car of Chris Dyson and Guy Smith ended up 23rd overall, one position ahead of the Muscle Milk car.
Said Lux, “This win is terrific. It has been a difficult season but Mike (Marsal) has been terrific at finding his pace with the car compared to the GT car he drove previously. I finished second here last year, and was hoping to improve on it today. The Dyson team gave me a great car. It was an ugly race out there; it was littered with yellows and it was survival of the fittest.”
Marsal was equally thrilled with the outcome. “It is incredible to take a P1 win in the ALMS,” he said. “It is really something I have dreamed about since I fell in love with racing.”
Each driver has competed in six P1 races, all in the 2012 season.
The GTC class win went to the TRG Porsche of Al Carter and Patrick Pilet. This duo started last and slowly worked their way to the front. For Carter, the win was his first in professional racing.
Three caution flags slowed the race for 18 laps. The first yellow flew on the opening lap when a multi-car melee took place in the first turn.