Laurent Mercier/Endurance-Info.com, translated by Rainier Ehrhardt
As the summertime break comes to an end, Christophe Bouchut is one who couldn’t take advantage of any time off as the Level 5 Motorsports driver was participating in an American Le Mans Series race meeting every two weeks during the hot months. Flying high after an impressive overall victory in Baltimore, the Bouchut/Scott Tucker duo will be at Virginia International Raceway this weekend at the controls of their HPD ARX-03b with the aim to maintain their lead in the P2 championship. In between race weekends, the French driver made a stop in England at the Wirth Research simulator in order to perfect his VIR racing line. He will be doing the same ahead of Petit Le Mans even if he knows Road Atlanta very well already.
It will be the biggest championship in the world
Laurent Mercier: Christophe, can we say this is a busy period of the season?
Christophe Bouchut: “I’m leaving tomorrow for the United States ahead of the next ALMS round that will be at Virginia International Raceway this weekend. The American calendar is very busy in this time of year. I was able to familiarize myself with the track during two days in the Wirth Research simulator at Bicester since this will be the first time that the series will be running there. I’ll also be returning to the simulator before Petit Le Mans. We’re carrying good momentum even if the Baltimore race was not an obvious win. We knew that the atmospheric Nissan engine was more comfortable on that type of track than our turbo Honda. The traffic was dense, which was more complicated for us in terms of relaunching. We didn’t think we’d be part of the top group, but our pole position put the team into a position of confidence. We had to hold off the Morgan, which ended up having a suspension problem near the end of the race.”
You know the ALMS and Grand-Am championships well. What is your take on the new merger that is planned for 2014?
“It’s extraordinary! I know that certain people are worried about the number of races or the various classes, but personally this merger is really good because it will only serve to reinforce the races in the United States. Grand-Am is a good success story as well as a good machine (DP), thanks to NASCAR’s support. On the other side, the ALMS has been around for more than a decade and has become the top sportscar series in North America. From the start, there hasn’t been many modifications, unlike in Europe. The two championships are strong, even if the ALMS is slightly less so lately due to a lack of prototypes. That said, the entries are always more than 30 cars. That’s real success.”
So this means we’ll see a good championship, in your eyes?
“It will be the biggest championship in the world. This association will attract big teams, knowing that the media is very involved in covering the events. Everyone knows that the economic climate isn’t favorable right now and that NASCAR isn’t F1. But I’ve never battled harder than when I was driving in Grand-Am in 2009. Running in cars that are 10 seconds slower a lap doesn’t take away anything from the spectacle of racing. There’s a lot of work to be done to be sure the balance of performance gives the best results possible.”
Returning to Daytona in a “real” prototype is something you must be looking forward to.
“To think that there’s a chance to run at Daytona in a car that’s similar to the one in which I won in 1995 (in a Kremer K8 with Giovanni Lavaggi, Marco Werner and Jürgen Lassig) is fantastic. Even though the DPs were enjoyable to drive, they were missing some technology like traction control. In 2014, I think we’ll be close to what we have currently and that’s going to make for some great grids. We could easily have races in the DTM genre.”
Have you already spoken about all this with Scott Tucker and Level 5 Motorsports?
“Not really because the announcement was made while I was back in Europe and it’s not the kind of discussion you can easily have by email or over the phone. Level 5 Motorsports isn’t the kind of team to rush to announce something. They think things through. Currently they are the biggest team in the ALMS and it’s run by a gentleman driver/owner. We have to wait to know all of the effects of this merger.”