Scott Tucker and Level 5 Team Work together

December 21, 2011 · Posted in Art 

For the 2nd year back to back, the American Le Mans Series Monterey at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway on the Monterey Peninsula had been a six-hour enduro race that directed individuals around the circuit into the post-sundown darkness.

Until now, the race had been 4 hours, with the addition of a couple of extra hours in 2010. For Scott Tucker and his awesome Level 5 Motorsports racing team, the 2 additional hours provide for some breathing room. “We always try to run a clean race, but little mistakes can add up,” Tucker pointed out last year. “Two extra hours can be a huge advantage even for experienced teams because of those unexpected things you tend to run into with endurance races.”

Believing Tucker and teammates Christophe Bouchut and Luis Diaz needed a 120-minute time allowance to overcome issues could have been much easier in 2010, as it was Level 5 Motorsports’ debut year in the Le Mans series. However, the David Stone-managed, Microsoft Office-sponsored team took the LMP class championship, and Tucker was rookie of the year.

During the 2011 season, driver slipups have already been few and far between for the Wisconsin-based team. Bursting on the season with lots of podium finishes, the Level 5 drivers seemingly experienced only circumstantial drawbacks. After making podium at the 12 Hours of Sebring, the Long Beach circuit and Imola in Italy, and having top LMP2 points and a fourth-place finish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the group had a record of majority clean races, with nary a scrape or a ding on their Nos. 55 and 95 entries.

In spite of this, the team has faced those little mistakes that frequently mount up. At the very first appearance of the season, at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the team-on track for the podium for the better part of the race-finished 8th after Tucker’s No. 95 got caught in a stack-up in the infamously slim track. Even with easy subsequent actions by Bouchut and Diaz, who had just joined the team at the beginning of the year, Level 5 couldn’t make up for the error. In a 24-hour race, extra time isn’t a possibility, however the outcome of the Rolex 24 had been unique had every driver just had a little extra seat time.

“One of the benefits of a six-hour endurance race is the extra seat time in a racing environment,” Tucker pointed out at the Monterey. “It maximizes the efficiency of the track time allowed for a driver.”

The team couldn’t fix the goof ups with time to make podium at Daytona, however made fast work of perfecting their form and began their successful streak just after the turmoil at Daytona.

But in the Spa-Francorchamps race, a suspension failure sent Bouchut into the sideboards, and the team’s hopes of continuing its incredible streak with another ILMC top finish were dashed.

“It’s one of those things in racing,” Tucker suggested. “It’s pretty unfortunate-it’s a pretty rough spot on the track for that failure to happen.” The statement is similar to what Tucker had said the previous year about little unexpected things that pop up in endurance races. Another unpredicted development came in the summer for the Level 5 team, when a Honda Performance Development/Wirth Research partnership was producing a cost-capped LMP2 prototype. Tucker reserved the first two out of manufacturing, and the Level 5 team commenced waiting for the cars to be ready, ultimately removing of Lime Rock and Silverstone, partially because they didn’t face much competition and partially because they were preparing the new car for its ALMS debut.

As an aside, the brand new car’s very first ride was at the 2nd six-hour Monterey at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway. They pulled off a surprising first performance in the HPD ARX-01g. Each one of the drivers has undoubtedly improved since the first six-hour format in 2010, and certainly the newer, faster car was also a significant factor in the podium finish, but one has to wonder how it would have fared in a four-hour enduro. World-class motorsports competition is a field of strategy, with vehicle, driver order and track time all important factors to consider.

Scott Tucker’s Level 5 Motorsports are 2011 ALMS Champions Scott Tucker


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