2012 Baltimore IndyCar podium finishers Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ryan Briscoe and SImon Pagenaud will be ALMS teammates at Sebring. (LAT photo)
Level 5 Motorsports has announced a star-studded driving squad in its bid for an unprecedented fourth consecutive victory in next month's Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The three-time ALMS championship-winning organization will return to the P2 class with a pair of HPD ARX-03b cars for IndyCar stars Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ryan Briscoe, Simon Pagenaud and sports car veteran Marino Franchitti. Team owner Tucker, a nine-time national driving champion, will drive in both the Nos. 055 and 95 Siemens/Alpina Watch/Ohiya Casino Resort-sponsored entries.
“We're really excited about our lineup for Sebring,” said Tucker, who has 89 career victories in sports car racing worldwide. “When we found out that there would be competition in P2, we committed to one car and have since increased that commitment to our normal protocol of two cars. Sebring is always one of the most difficult races but I know we have a strong enough lineup and a strong team in Level 5 to fight for the win.”
Level 5's lineup for Sebring features a mix of new and returning drivers, all capable of leading the team to victory. ALMS veteran Marino Franchitti has five series class wins and more than 20 podium finishes to his credit, including a second-place finish in last year's Petit Le Mans with brother Dario and team owner Tucker. IndyCar Series champion Hunter-Reay, a former Sebring winner with Level 5, returns after his championship-winning IndyCar season, which saw the top American open-wheel driver earn four victories and seven top-five finishes driving for Andretti Autosport.
The two newcomers to Level 5 have also enjoyed a successful past in the ALMS. Briscoe, who is coming off a five-year stint with Penske Racing in IndyCar, earned four P2 class victories in the factory Porsche RS Spyder program in 2007-'08. Pagenaud, who captured 2012 IndyCar Rookie of the Year honors, won the 2010 ALMS LMP championship with Highcroft Racing and has been one of HPD's leading development drivers.
“I don't think anyone would argue that these are all top drivers,” said Level 5 Motorsports team manager David Stone. “Marino Franchitti has done a good job for us in the opportunities we've had with him, while Ryan Hunter-Reay has always been one of our choices for the races that we need third drivers. We're excited to welcome both Simon Pagenaud and Ryan Briscoe to the team as well. Simon has been someone I've had my eye on for several years, and he was really good at our pre-Petit Le Mans test last year. And Ryan was a name that popped up recently. We had him in the car at Sebring a few days ago and things went well.”
Four of the five drivers participated in a two-day test at Sebring International Raceway last week, which also gave the chance for the team to shake off the cobwebs and prepare for the opening race of the 15th and final season of the American Le Mans Series.
Level 5 has collected three consecutive team championships and 18 victories since its ALMS debut in 2010. Eight of the victories came just last year, including a 1-2 overall finish on the streets of Baltimore that helped propel Tucker to his third straight driver's championship.
While the team's post-Sebring ALMS plans have yet to be determined, Level 5 is preparing for a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans this June, where Tucker will be looking to improve on his third-place finish in 2011. The team's full driver lineup for Le Mans will be announced at a later date.