KENNOL ROCKS AGAIN AT LAGUNA SECA
For his 1st race with Level 5 – KENNOL in HPD ARX-03b LMP2 prototypes, Franck Montagny shown two faces: the crash, and the win. After Christophe Bouchut set the pole position once again, the 2 cars took the lead but many race incidents and accidents changed this ALMS week-end into an epic fight, with a double podium nonetheless crowning a great season start for the american team.
Competition is tough…
I realize sometimes that I have to go close to the limit for these pole positions…
▌ A RACE TO BE REMEMBERED!
Level 5 Motorsports and KENNOL achieved their goal of a 3rd consecutive class victory in 3 years at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and 3 from 3 in the 2012 ALMS. The No.95 HPD ARX-03b, driven by team owner Scott Tucker, Luis Diaz and former Peugeot-driver Franck Montagny, claimed second place overall in the 35-strong field after a thrilling and action-packed 6 hours of racing in California. And the team definitely chose the good package with Honda Performance Development in LMP2 this year
The second Level 5 entry, the Alpina Watches-sponsored No. 055 in the hands of Christophe Bouchut as well as Tucker and Montagny, overcame an incident with a GTC car to take third in class and valuable championship points despite being delayed for 35 minutes while repairs were made. The team’s P2 success provided Honda Performance Development with a much applauded 1-2 in the overall results on the mythical track, which confirms the tremendous potential of the package after a 12h race on an airport (Sebring), a 2h tight fight in a street-race (Long Beach) and this last one at Laguna Seca.
▌ A SERIOUS ACCIDENT…
A delighted Scott Tucker, who also claimed a pair of class wins in this weekend’s Cooper Tires Prototype Lites series, said afterwards: “Incidents happen in this kind of racing, and that’s why we have two cars – in case something happens to one of them. Franck and Luis drove a great race and Christophe too. There was the mistake with the 055 and a GTC car, but overall I couldn’t be happier. It’s a really special day for us.”
Tucker took the start in the No. 055 from pole position, with Luis Diaz in the sister car just one place behind. The two cars maintained a firm hold on the P2 class lead – one it wasn’t to relinquish despite some strong opposition. Luis Diaz, who drove a perfect and solid first stint before handing off to Tucker, was a slightly reluctant observer of the tense conclusion: “Watching almost gave me a heart attack!” he smiled. “After all the ups and downs we had it’s a great result. I think Level 5 did a fantastic job and Scott and Franck drove a great race. We tried to keep the car clean and there was a big fight through all the classes amongst the drivers, right to the end so it’s very nice to finish on top of the podium. Our goal is to develop race by race and it’s nice to be on a team with a leader like Scott who pushes us to the limit to be a better team.”
At the 2 hour 42 minute mark, just after the 2nd round of pit stops, Montagny in the No.055 had a coming together with a GTC Porsche which resulted in significant damage to the right rear corner of the Level 5 machine. The crew did a superb job in making speedy and effective repairs to the HPD, replacing an axle, suspension geometry and bodywork, before Christophe Bouchut was able to return the car to the race. A total of 35 minutes was lost behind the wall.
Montagny returned to the wheel of the No.95 for the final section of the race, setting fastest P2 lap time of the race and consistently turning fast laps in order to ensure victory. He acknowledged the fantastic job the team did to repair the car and have it back running again, and said of the incident: “I was just following Scott, I overtook a car and he hit me in the rear. Then I was in the wall. You don’t feel good when things like that happen, but the team worked hard and put it back together and got it back on the track. I am a race car driver and I had to do my job so I had to not think about what happened and concentrate on winning. I had a good race against Pizzonia, who I know from F1, so it ended up being a fun race.”
▌ …WHICH LEADS TO LOGICAL DRIVER LINE-UP FOR LE MANS
The team now turns its attention fully towards the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. The only official test session takes place on Sunday, June 3 and the car and all equipment will be shipped this week to Europe ready for the test and the race itself which takes place on June 16/17. It’s been confirmed now that the drivers to take the wheel of the LMP2 HPD prototype for the race are Scott Tucker, Christophe Bouchut and Luis Diaz.