for Ed Zabinski and Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari V8 Crawford GT Despite New Car Challenges
A race that was fast but may have appeared to be frustrating for Ed Zabinski and Level 5 Motorsports teammate Scott Tucker proved to be a valuable development and engineering exercise for the all-new No. 55 Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari V8 Crawford GT that made its worldwide debut in Saturday's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami.
Powered by a potent Ferrari V8 and built by sports car road racing specialists Crawford Technologies from North Carolina, the Ferrari V8 Crawford GT was popular with race fans and competitors alike during the GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami weekend. A steady stream of onlookers stopped by the Level 5 garage to take a look at what was certainly one of the most exotic and innovative race cars in the paddock at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and they weren't disappointed with the on-track performance either. Both drivers were quick in the Ferrari V8 GT in practice and Tucker qualified a solid 17th in the 27-car GT field, an impressive effort for any debuting race car and team.
A race is always the best true test for new machinery, however, and a variety of typical new car maladies in the GAINSCO Grand Prix hampered the Ferrari V8 GT but not the Level 5 team.
"I am a racer, and when I come to the track I prefer to be ready to win," Zabinski said. "With a brand new team, brand new car and Grand-Am's testing limitations, however, it just wasn't realistic to bring a winner to Homestead. Every issue we encountered was truly a one-off, new-car occurrence and you have to chalk it up to development more than an ongoing problem. The Level 5 team rose to all of the challenges, however, and they quickly solved issues that might have stumped other teams."
The biggest new-car issue came before the green flag even dropped when the alternator belt snapped during the parade laps. Undeterred, Tucker began to pass several cars in the early laps but the draining electrical system eventually made the electric power steering system useless. After struggling to steer the Ferrari V8 GT and going off in Turn 1, Tucker managed to get the race car back to the garage for repairs.
"We spent almost an hour in the pits for the belt change," Zabinski said. "When we returned to the race, we spent the remaining laps practicing pit stops, changing set ups and trying to run side by side with the fast guys to assess our strengths while trying to stay out of the leaders way."
The unintentional "R & D" session also gave both Zabinski and Tucker some solid seat time.
"Scott drove really well," Zabinski said. "He and I both turned time within a second of the leaders and Scott matched my times to the 1,000. He and the entire team did a great job."
As Level 5's test and development driver, Zabinski also gave the team high marks for rolling with wide range of test set ups he and the Crawford engineers wanted to try during the weekend.
"This was our first time out and everybody worked together very well," Zabinski said. "We didn't get the result we wanted but we learned a lot that will help us in the future. I am looking forward to our next race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca."
For the record, Zabinski and Tucker finished 23rd in the GT class in the GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami, but progress was the real result of the weekend.
"We are off and running and learned a lot," Zabinski said. "Now we have to learn to be patient for the next six weeks until we race again!"