Neither Ryan Briscoe nor Marino Franchitti were able to set a competitive time in qualifying.
Le Mans, France. — Despite changing weather conditions and numerous red flags over a challenging two days of track action, Level 5 Motorsports is set for the start of tomorrow’s 90th anniversary 24 Hours of Le Mans. Drivers Scott Tucker, Marino Franchitti and Ryan Briscoe will roll off from the ninth row in the competitive LMP2 class, after being unable to set a representative qualifying time in the No. 33 Siemens/Alpina Watches/Ohiya Casino Resort-sponsored Honda Performance Development ARX-03b car.
Nearly half of the scheduled ten hours of track time on Wednesday and Thursday was either rain-soaked or cut short due to numerous red flags for accidents.
Wednesday’s Free Practice session saw encouraging pace from Level 5’s Michelin-shod prototype, with Briscoe, making his Le Mans debut, setting a respectable 3:44.756 lap time to end up 5th quickest.
However, due to a series of circumstances, largely dependent on track conditions, neither the IndyCar star nor Franchitti were able to set a competitive time in qualifying.
A 3:48.597 lap by Briscoe in the opening qualifying session stood as the quickest of the Level 5 drivers. A late attempt by Franchitti in the third and final session, on a drying track, unfortunately resulted in the Scot making a trip into the gravel trap at Indianapolis Corner. An 18th starting position leaves Level 5 slightly disappointed, but not discouraged heading into the 24-hour endurance classic.
“We were trying to take advantage of the little bit of dry running that we had but the red flags didn’t help us,” Franchitti said. “The track was pretty dry on the racing line at the end and we went for a run.
We tried to improve the car but don’t think we are where we want to be yet. I made a little mistake at Indianapolis and went off line and spun into the gravel.
The guys did the best job possible to get it ready to go back out but we ran out of time, unfortunately. I think we could have been further up the grid.”
All three drivers, including nine-time national driving champion Tucker, completed laps in the mixed conditions. Judging by the weather already seen this week, and with periods of rain forecast for the weekend, that experience could very well pay off in the race.
“We ended up with a pretty similar type situation in the sessions on both Wednesday and Thursday,” Level 5 Chief Strategist Jeff Braun said. “We spent time with the tire situation, trying to get the right tires on the car.
Then we had some red flags and never got a run on new tires again, which we were hoping for at the end of the day. We thought we would be a pretty solid top-5 car, we just didn’t get a chance to show it.
“Qualifying isn’t very important,” Braun added. “We’re going to start maybe 100 yards behind where we would have normally started. If we can’t make that up in 24 hours, then we don’t deserve to win.
We would have all liked to have seen the time on the board, but we’re out of that opportunity now. So we’re going to focus on the race and have to count on it and be confident that the pace is there.”
Level 5 and Tucker will be seeking their second podium finish at Le Mans, as the only American prototype team in this year’s race.
Level 5 Motorsports