TEAM RELEASE: Briscoe, Level 5 Claim Pole in Virginia
Level 5 Motorsports and Scott Tucker stepped closer to locking up the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón P2 championship Friday, as Ryan Briscoe and Marino Franchitti led a 1-2 qualifying effort for the Oak Tree Grand Prix at Virginia International Raceway.
With the teams and drivers championships still on the line heading into the second-to-last ALMS race, the Madison Wis.-based organization unloaded with the collective goal of clinching its fourth consecutive series title, while also padding a points lead for team principal Tucker, who searches for his elusive 10th national driving championship.
Tucker and co-drivers Briscoe, Franchitti, Guy Cosmo as well as new addition Stefan Johansson got off to a quick start in testing and practice, with both of the Siemens/Alpina Watches/Ohiya Casino Resort-sponsored Honda Performance Development ARX-03b prototypes showing encouraging pace entering Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session at the historic 3.27-mile circuit.
When the checkered flag flew, it was another Level 5 sweep, led by an impressive 1:39.796 lap time by Briscoe in the No. 551 HPD which he’ll share with Tucker. The Australian IZOD IndyCar Series ace was a half-second quicker than Franchitti. Cosmo and Johansson will complete driving duties of the No. 552 car in Saturday’s 2-hour and 45-minute race.
"That was really exciting," said Briscoe, who scored his 5th pole of the season. "For me, it was one of the most exciting tracks we qualify at. It's really high speed and feels like you get a lot out of the car, especially with the downforce we have. It's exhilarating. We worked on the setup a lot today. The engineers have been doing a great job. In qualifying, the car felt the best it's been for sure. We're making progress. I'm just really happy to get another 1-2 for Level 5.”
Briscoe’s run continued Level 5’s undefeated streak of pole positions, in what’s already been a season to remember. With a 22-point lead over its competition, the David Stone-led organization will clinch the P2 title if they leave Virginia with a lead of 24 points or more. That means a win on Saturday, no matter where the Extreme Speed Motorsports team finishes, would give the title to Level 5, one race early.
“It was great to see Ryan get another pole,” said Level 5 team manager David Stone. “Our competition had some trouble in qualifying but I’m sure they’ll be strong in the race. It’s important to start up front as we’re hoping to have a clean race, stay out of trouble, and get both cars to the finish. Clinching the team’s championship one race early would be great and we have to target that tomorrow.”
Briscoe added: "Our goal is pretty simple and that's get to the end and try to finish first and second. I feel like the guys are doing a great job. Guy has been a really good addition to the team. It's been fun to be working with him. And having Stefan on board this weekend is awesome. He's such a great guy. Hopefully tomorrow we'll finish first and second, clinch the championship and take it from there.”
The Oak Tree Grand Prix from Virginia International Raceway is set for 2 p.m. EDT on Saturday October 5, with live coverage on ESPN3. ESPN2 will broadcast the race on Sunday, October 6 at 5:30 p.m. EDT. Live timing and scoring will be available at http://www.alms.com.