Level 5 Enters Ferrari GTDs, Signs Sweedler, Bell

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

Level 5 Motorsports is poised for a multi-class effort in 2014, as the four-time American Le Mans Series championship-winning squad expands to the GT ranks.

Sportscar365 has learned that the Scott Tucker-owned squad has entered a pair of Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 cars in the GT Daytona category, to go along with its already announced two-car Prototype Challenge entry for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

The expanded program will see IndyCar ace Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler, teammates at Alex Job Racing for the last two seasons, share the wheel of Level 5’s lead Prancing Horse for the entire 11-round championship.

They’ll be joined by former Ferrari Challenge ace Tucker for the long-distance races, who could also drive Level 5’s PC entries in select rounds as well.

“I’ve known Scott over the past couple of years and watched him build a world-class team,” Sweedler told Sportscar365. “He and I have joked on occasion on when they were going to be expanding into GTs. When he let me know he was doing just that, I said let’s figure out how we can do something.”

The deal between Tucker and Sweedler was made over the phone last week, which will see the duo make the switch from a Ferrari 458 GTE car, run by Alex Job Racing this year, to the Italian manufacturer’s GT3-based offering.

“At the end of the day, they’re both 458s,” Bell said. “From a dynamic point of view, I expect it to feel similar. Last year, the Ferrari was such a great platform. We really didn’t have any complaints about the car. It’s very easy to drive and forgiving. Michelotto does a great job building those things.

“To be on common footing now, tire-wise, is going to be very exciting. We really enjoyed our relationship with Yokohama the last two years and working to develop things along. We made some gains but at the end of the day this is about winning races and putting ourselves in a position where there aren’t any excuses.”

According to team manager David Stone, the driver lineup for the team’s second Ferrari GTD entry is still being finalized, while they are continuing to talk to prospective customers and professional drivers for its two-car PC entry.

Stone expects to take delivery of the first Ferrari by the middle of December, potentially in time for private testing before the Roar Before the Rolex 24 on Jan. 3-5.

“I’m working with Michelotto on sending a small team of Level 5 mechanics over to Italy to assemble the cars so they have an instant familiarity with the cars,” he said. “We’ve done it that way with every other car we’ve built, whether it was with the HPD/Wirth prototypes or the Lolas, it’s always a good practice. A lot is learned in a short period of time.”

Level 5’s two-car Ferrari GTD commitment gives a further boost to the Pro-Am class, which is now expected to see no fewer than 25 full-season entry requests.

The class is currently capped to 19 cars for Daytona, although those numbers may changed according to the level of interest in other classes.

16 Comments

  1. KJ Maxwell

    November 22, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    More Ferrari 458 GT’s!

    • KJ Maxwell

      November 22, 2013 at 7:55 pm

      How many Ferrari GT3’s does that make now for the full season? For that matter, how many confirmed GTD cars of all makes are currently registered for the series?

      • Tim

        November 23, 2013 at 4:20 pm

        the cap is 20 and I believe that there has got to be close to 30 “confirmed” everyone seems to say “2 car program” at this rate I believe no one should have a 2nd car…that 2nd car is sure to turn away a different team.

        Ferrari GTD

        AF Corse x2 ( NAEC )
        Level 5 x2
        SMP Racing by ESM x2 ( NAEC possible full )
        Aim Motorsports x1
        Scuderia corse x2
        Ferrari corse client #61 ( aims second car from last year, seems to be linked to Risi for next year )

        I count a possible 10 Ferrari`s!

        • KJ Maxwell

          November 23, 2013 at 6:04 pm

          Thanks, Tim. Sounds about right.

          For me just the thought of 10 Ferrari GTD’s at Daytona will make it worth going after all.Thankfully they emit more of that wonderful Ferrari sound than they did when they first ran there.

          I had heard that Risi might end up with a GTD 458. I wonder if Tracy K. might have one for the 24 as well given that there is no Pro Am class for GTLM like there is in WEC. He and his pro guns drove a GT class Porsche at Daytona last year.

          Surely they will except more GTD’s than the class limit for the big NAEC races. It might be a bit tight at WG and PLM, but there probably wont be almost 30 GTD cars showing up for those events.

          So, possibly 10 Ferrari 458’s,maybe 6 Audi R8 LMS, 11 Porsche 911 GT, 1 BMW Z4 GT3 and a lone TRD Aston GT3 in GTD for the 24?

          Very cool. Next to going over for the Spa 24 I can’t imagine anything better than what might be seen in GTD this coming January.

          • Kevin

            November 23, 2013 at 6:14 pm

            Don’t forget the Viper!

          • KJ Maxwell

            November 23, 2013 at 11:05 pm

            Of course! I knew I had left somebody off the list, just couldn’t remember who. Thanks for mentioning the new GT3 Viper,Kevin. Bill R. is one of my favorite people in the sport and look forward to seeing and hearing that car.

            Anyone else in GTD that I forgot about?

  2. Derek

    November 22, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    IM it is almost a shame that the greatness of the GTD class this season is being overshadowed by the regulation and rules issues in the P class. GTD is going to be amazing with great teams, great cars, and great drivers.

    • KJ Maxwell

      November 22, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      I could not agree with you more,Derek!

      After all the DP v P2 back and forth crap, the loss of DP’s in the combined P Class due to cost concerns and now the issues at Daytona in testing, GTD has lifted me up and made me more than a little enthused about the coming year in the USCC.

      I have to thank Ratel once again for GT3. It is the best formula ever, even in slightly hindered GTD form.

      There will be 30 cars for the class at the rate things are going.
      In fact, I know of one former winning DP guy who is trying to bring together the pieces for another Audi R8 LMS effort at this very moment…

      It is causing endorphins to flow just thinking about it all.

      • Mikeyboy

        November 22, 2013 at 11:17 pm

        Anything race car related is “hindered” by the Frances ;). Let’s all be big Boys and Girls and just be FIA GT3 spec like World Challange, not so many Series specific variations (de-evolving the real thing) Sorry DEVO.

        • KJ Maxwell

          November 26, 2013 at 2:02 pm

          I am afraid that I have to agree with you,Mikey. Since they were making almost all of the current GT class cars from G/A obsolete it would have been a perfect time to make it a “pure” GT3 category.

          Porsche had a hand in this as well, IMO. While letting all of those Porsche teams buy a new car from them at a lower price point than it cost them in the past (as well as less than the other options available) seemed like a nice deal, the fact is that a full-on GT3 class would have been better in the long run for all concerned. Better for the series and for the Porsche runners as well. Sure, they would pay more for the full-on GT3 car,but when the time came they could sell their 911 GT car to teams in series all around the world, not just those in USCC.

          Once we see the new GT3 Porsche the USCC will likely change the rules to FIA GT3 spec so that their friends at Porsche can sell another batch of cars…

  3. Jason

    November 22, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Yeah I’d rather see the LMPC class dropped to make room for 10 more GTD’s

    • KJ Maxwell

      November 22, 2013 at 2:59 pm

      Why not let all the P cars (DP,P2 and PC) have their own 2hour sprint race before the Rolex 24 Hours of GT?!!!!!

      No more “my P is better than your P” if you ditch them altogether..

    • Jack

      November 22, 2013 at 3:01 pm

      that would be a horrible decision becuase pc is where all of the rich pay drivers are located, pc is perfect the way it is, fast young drivers with older drivers who bring sponsors to the sport, besides, what cars do you think will take those spots, it will be 911 gt americas, if you open that up ur just taking out good teams and replacing them with back marker gt teams.

    • rissas dad

      November 22, 2013 at 3:06 pm

      IMO that will happen in 2016. LMPC isnt a long term solution. It was formed to pad grids and create an entry point into prototypes. I believe they will keep the class for two more seasons to allow those that have invested in cars to get their moneys worth and phase them out. Thin grids appear to be a non-issue as of this moment. That could change in they cant get P figured out.

      • Vance

        November 22, 2013 at 3:25 pm

        I fully expect a prototype class that has an AM category in 2016. Or 17. Whenever it is

        • Bakkster

          November 22, 2013 at 4:44 pm

          That’s my bet as well. One set of cars, some Pro-Am some all pro.

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