Level 5 Motorsports locked up its third consecutive P2 teams’ championship Saturday with a dominant run in Saturday’s Oak Tree Grand Prix at Virginia International Raceway.
Ryan Briscoe took the No. 551 HPD ARX-03b to a 13.464-second win over the No. 01 Extreme Speed Motorsports entry of Scott Sharp, who finished in second.
The two similarly prepared cars enjoyed an early race battle, in the hands of Scott Tucker and Anthony Lazzaro, with the Level 5 team owner losing the lead to the ESM entry just past the 40-minute mark.
However, the No. 551 car, in the hands of Briscoe, managed to re-take the top spot in the second hour, which saw the Australian bridge the gap over Sharp in the closing stages of the two-hour and 45-minute contest.
While it marked Level 5′s eighth class victory of the season, it also locked up the teams’ championship one race early.
“It was good,” Briscoe said. “I felt pretty confident and we had a good car. The strategy went perfect today. Everybody executed to perfection today. The car was strong. Scott did a great job during his stint. He led most of his laps out there.”
With the class win, Tucker leapfrogs to the championship lead and now holds a six-point advantage over Sharp heading into the series-ending Petit Le Mans in two weeks’ time.
The No. 552 Level 5 machine of Stefan Johansson, Marino Franchitti and Guy Comso completed the class podium in third.
Both Franchitti and Cosmo, who were 1-2 in the drivers’ title race entering Saturday’s race, did not collect driver points as they failed to reach the 60-minute minimum drive time to score points.
Up front, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing scored its eighth overall victory in nine races, despite an early race battle with the pole-sitting Dyson Racing Lola B12/60 Mazda of Johnny Mowlem.
Both P1 class contenders suffered off-course excursions in the opening hour, but the race quickly went to the hands of Klaus Graf and co-driver Lucas Luhr, who took the HPD ARX-03c to a 22.846-second victory over the Dyson entry of Guy Smith.
PC honors for the second consecutive race went to BAR1 Motorsports’ Kyle Marcelli and Chris Cumming.
Marcelli edged out a late-charging No. 05 CORE autosport Oreca FLM09 of Tom Kimber-Smith by 11.590 seconds for the class win.
BAR1′s No. 7 entry of Rusty Mitchell and James French completed the podium in a race that nearly turned the championship tables upside down.
An early accident involving the PC championship-leading PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry of Mike Guasch resulted in a fifth place finish for he and pole-sitter Dane Cameron, narrowing Guasch’s lead to 12 points heading into Road Atlanta.
Thanks to their runner-up finish, CORE autosport, meanwhile, retake the teams’ championship lead, now four points ahead of PR1/Mathiasen.
After a season filled with bad luck and misfortune, Risi Competizione’s luck finally turned around, as the Ferrari squad took a commanding GT class win.
Matteo Malucelli and Olivier Beretta broke through for their first victory of the season, thanks to a late charge by the Italian, who passed the No. 06 CORE autosport Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Patrick Long with 26 minutes to go.
From there, it was clear sailing for Malucelli, who took a 19-second win over the Long and Colin Braun-driven Porsche, which scored a season-best second place finish in class.
“We improved the car and had worked a lot after the bad races from the start of the season,” Malucelli said. “We were fast at COTA but had some problems. This time, the team, the car and the tires were perfect. We won, so I’m really happy.”
A third place finish for Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia was enough to clinch the GT teams’ championship to Corvette Racing, as well as the manufacturers’ title for Chevrolet in the production-based ranks.
Dirk Mueller held off Tommy Milner for fourth in class, keeping the German’s driver title hopes alive heading into Petit Le Mans.
Saturday’s race was highlighted by a frightening accident between the No. 31 NGT Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car of Eduardo Cisneros and the Marco Holzer-driven No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.
Cisneros slammed heavily into an armco wall, flipping his Porsche, which landed right side up on top of the tire barriers. Both drivers walked away unscathed, including Cisneros, who was making his first ALMS start.
The accident set up a 38-minute run to the checkered flag.
GTC class honors for the second straight race went to the No. 66 TRG Porsche of Damien Faulkner and Ben Keating.
Faulkner held off the No. 22 Alex Job Racing entry of Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil for the class win, with the No. 30 NGT Motorsport Porsche of Sean Edwards and Henrique Cisneros completing the class podium in third.
The final set of ALMS champions will be crowned on Oct. 19 with the Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda, Live on FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sport 2.