It was a wild weekend for the Conquest Endurance team at Petit Le Mans, the season finale in the 2012 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron. The team had an almost certain victory, leading the field by a full lap, when a punctured tire forced the team to pit, settling for second place. Joined for this race by ALMS veteran Eric Lux, the rookie team was still in the running for the P2 championship, though that fate was entirely determined by Level 5’s completion of seventy percent of the race distance.
Martin Plowman was a force to be reckoned with, as he showed his quick learning style and dominant and calculated manner on track. Plowman qualified the car a mere .002 seconds off pole, only second to the OAK factory team. Teammate David Heinemeier Hansson took the starting leg of the 1000-mile race and charged the car to the front of the field. At the 2:13 mark, Eric Lux took the wheel and kept a steady hand through his double stint. Plowman took over at 3:45 into the event and took the car from P2 in class to P1 with a strong gap over the second-place car.
At the 6:21 mark, Heinemeier Hansson once again piloted the #37 Nissan Morgan machine. It was during his stint that a confusing situation involving a yellow penalized the team. The #055 Level 5 car passed him under yellow during a wavearound, and as ALMS officials worked to resolve the issue, the track went green. Heinemeier Hansson didn’t let the confusion stop him from regaining the lead before the officials laid down a heavy penalty on the #055 car, giving the Conquest machine an even larger lead.
Plowman took the last stint of the day and maintained the strong lead he had over the second-place car. However, things came to a heartbreaking turn when he radioed back to the team that he had suffered a puncture and needed to pit immediately. Due to the puncture, he was unable to slow the car fully and also suffered a pit-lane speed violation, which dropped the team into a devastating second place. A full 30 seconds behind the leaders with only 15 minutes left in the race, Plowman drove his heart out, reeling in the leaders to an 8.2-second gap at the checkered flag. His persistence to the end made Conquest Endurance the sweethearts of the P2 race.
In a post-race review, it was discovered the Plowman had driven 7-minutes over his maximum driving time and the Conquest car was subsequently disqualified from the race. Per ALMS rules, any driver cannot drive more than four hours in any six-hour period.
The rookie team made quite an impression in the ALMS paddock this season. They finished every race on podium, won three pole positions, and won two races at Mosport and Road America. They were the underdogs in a David and Goliath battle all season long against the mammoth Level 5 Motorsports.
Martin Plowman, driver: “We experienced every single emotion possible here. To come so close to a win and to lose it right at the end is heartbreaking. I’m very proud of the team; they did a great job all day. We proved our speed and the end result shows how strong this year has been with both Level 5 and us finishing 1-2, beating out some of the best drivers and teams from all over the world. It’s just a huge credit to the level that we have been competing with this year.”