In the first of a new series, Level 5 driver Luis Diaz recalls a fine start to his and the teams 2011 ALMS LMP2 campaign at last weekend's Sebring 12 Hours.

“Wow! What a few weeks we have had at Level 5 Motorsport. It was fantastic that the team won the LMP2 class at Sebring last weekend with our Lola-HPD car. We all did a very decent job all week especially when you consider that the Level 5 guys and the Lola guys worked super hard to get the car ready for the race. We only ran the Lola for the first time on the weekend before the race, so everyone deserves a big pat on the back. I and my team mates Scott Tucker and Ryan Hunter Reay were expecting a very tough race because of the relatively last minute nature of the deal we did to run two Lola-HPD cars in the full ALMS and ILMC this year. Things didn’t start too well when we had an accident on Monday during testing. The accident was a strange one because I lost the car, going very slow actually, but the turbo came in at a strange moment. I was very upset about the crash as it meant we missed vital time but the Level 5 guys did a great job putting the Lola together again and the support from the Lola people was fantastic at both the track and back at the factory in the UK.

The first real test was on Tuesday and from there on everything went very smoothly for us. I’m telling you there were some days that the guys slept no more than two or three hours at most, so looking at the effort from everybody at the team it was just phenomenal. David Stone (Team Manager) and Jean Marcioni (Technical Director) were pillars of strength during the whole week and led by a great example.

At first it looked very difficult for us because looking at the speed from the Nissan engine we were like “Oh my god, this is going to be very tough!” but we put our heads down, and we knew that the key of the race was going to be whoever recovers from the problems during the race will win it and that was the way it transpired.

Pace wise we will have a lot more to come but despite being at a disadvantage on the straights, we picked up in the corners because the Lola chassis was fantastic and I was really pleased with the way it handled. Scott (Tucker) did a very good job indeed with getting acquainted with the car and Ryan (Hunter-Reay) brought a lot to the team as well, particularly in terms of consistency. Both of my team mates are a pleasure to race with and I am looking forward to more races with them.

HPD did a great improvement during the week too with the turbo driveability and with speed so it by race day we were in as good shape as we could have been considering the circumstances. Of course, I wish I could have had more laps, more time, more testing to really see the limit of this car but you know what race drivers are like!

The first two hours of the race were good for us. We were in the LMP2 lead, but at the beginning of my second stint a wheel nut came loose and I had to stop on the track, so we lost 20 minutes there and believe it or not the guy who was driving the tow truck got lost on the perimeter road so we lost more time – it was unbelievable! Once we got to the paddock the guys fixed the car, we were having some battery issues and they fixed that and put the wheel nut in place and from there we start picking up good pace and at the end we were very strong and had the class won.

I was very impressed about the abilities of the Lola chassis and the HPD engine. I know the problem with the speed on the straights was more a matter of regulations. The IMSA guys have to fine-tune the rule to make things more even. I believe we have the best package to win the LMP2 title this year and also to make a name for ourselves in the ILMC and at Le Mans for the Level 5 name.

Sebring is acknowledged as the toughest race of the year, so with no testing to get a result like this is very special. Looking forward for the season we have Long Beach next and that is also a tough place but I think we as a team are so strong on the technical side and also mentally that we can get another top result there. Whatever happens I look forward to telling you all about it the Diaz Diary!"

All pictures courtesy of David Lord.