Level 5 LMP Honda starts on the front row for the Petit Le Mans

Braselton, Ga. — Level 5 Motorsports will start the 16th annual Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda from the front row in P2, after recording the quickest time in qualifying Friday at Road Atlanta, site of tomorrow’s final American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón finale.

After setting the pace all week in testing and practice, the Scott Tucker-owned organization headed into qualifying with high hopes of clinching its 10th pole of the season. While Ryan Briscoe took the No. 551 Siemens/Alpina Watches/Ohiya Casino Resort-sponsored Honda Performance Development ARX-03b prototype to a quick lap of 1:12.490, which provisionally stood for the pole position, his best time was later taken away by series officials because the car brought out a red flag.

As a result, Briscoe, team principal Tucker and Marino Franchitti will start from second on the grid in the No. 551 car, ahead of Level 5’ No. 552 HPD of Jonny Kane, Peter Dumbreck and Guy Cosmo, who set a 1:13.637 lap time in qualifying.

With their fourth consecutive team’s championship already locked up, the focus heading into the 1,000-mile/10-hour endurance race will be on the driver’s championship. Tucker holds a 6-point lead over Extreme Speed Motorsports’ Scott Sharp, meaning a win or second place finish for the No. 551 car would be enough for Tucker to claim his milestone 10th national driving title.

(Click image for our Petit Le Mans infographic)
Tucker has already gotten off to a strong start this week, having won Thursday’s Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda Series race in challenging wet conditions, while also showing his pace at the wheel of the Michelin-shod ALMS P2 car in testing and practice sessions. He and Briscoe are rejoined by Franchitti, the same lineup that won the 12 Hours of Sebring in March.

“The car has been great all week,” said Franchitti. “We’re real happy with the balance. Qualifying was a bit disjointed with the red flags and everything. But we think we have a good race car. It’s good in traffic and seems to work its tires well. Conditions here always change. It’s a very hard race with the different classes and the speed differential. We’ll go after it tomorrow and lock out the championship. That’s obviously the number one goal for the team.”

Cosmo added: “We’re mostly focused on our race strategy and the tires we want to start the race on. I wish I could have done a little bit better but that’s what we had right now. It’s been great working with Jonny and Peter for the first time in the No. 552 car. Those guys have been stellar. They’re extremely experienced and really bring a lot to the program. I think everybody’s just chasing the right strategy. It’s a long race and we need to make sure everybody’s using the right tires at the right time because of the varying temperatures. Overall, the Michelins are great and the Level 5 car is fantastic. I’m ready to go race!”