Scott Tucker and Level 5 Motorsports made the perfect start in their bid for a third consecutive victory in today's third round of the American Le Mans Series by locking out the front row of the P2 class for the American Le Mans Monterey Presented by Patrón at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
At the end of a tense and exciting 15-minute qualifying session, which was briefly interrupted at the start by a red flag for an off-track excursion by another car, Christophe Bouchut in the No. 055 HPD ARX-03b narrowly edged out his team mate Franck Montagny in the No. 95 Level 5 entry to take the class pole.
Tucker, a five-time national champion driver from Leawood, Kansas, noted after qualifying: “Christophe and Franck both did a great job today. I’m happy they are pushing each other to lower their lap times, but not fighting each other on track. It was an exciting qualifying and a good, clean session for us, and I’m really looking forward to the race tomorrow. Our car has performed well here at Mazda Raceway straight off the trailer, so we’ve not had to do a great deal of work on set up. There’s always fine-tuning, but we haven’t had to make any drastic steps.”Just 0.08 of a second separated the two Frenchmen and the two Level 5 entries will line up third and fourth on the combined grid for the six hour race, offering them an increased chance for overall victory at the challenging Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca track. There is considerable added interest and focus on the P2 class this weekend thanks to the addition of the Dempsey Racing Lola to the entry list, with the Hollywood actor Patrick Dempsey making his debut in the prototype classes. Christophe Bouchut, who was delighted with his sixth career ALMS pole, said afterwards: “We’ve already shown in the past that at Level 5 we like to do pole position with style and today was definitely about the challenge between me and Franck. It was a big fight, with the added pressure to not make any mistakes, and I’m really happy with the result. At the end of the six hours our goal is to win, but we never know what we are really able to do overall. We are very competitive and reliable so we're going to push and see where we go tomorrow. We have made some improvements over the previous car, especially with the grip, and some power. It is not a big gap, but it has certainly gotten better.”The Madison, Wisconsin-based team has had a busy but trouble-free two days leading into the race. Team newcomer, Franck Montagny, has re-acclimated himself quickly with the slippery, medium-speed road course, and all Level 5’s drivers are confident that the work done on set up and handling in the three practice sessions have resulted in a great race car.Tomorrow’s race into the darkness will have a dual purpose for the team. Aside from its main target of success and consolidation of its points-standing position in the P2 Championship title chase, racing in the darkness and cooler track conditions will provide the Dunlop-shod team will valuable data and experience as it heads to France next month for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The American Le Mans Monterey presented by Patrón is set for 1:30 p.m. PT on Saturday, May 12, from the 2.238-mile Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. ESPN2 airs the race at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 13. Live coverage is available starting at 4:15 p.m. ET on ESPN3