Level 5 Earns Long Beach Win, Looks Ahead to ILMC Campaign
After electing to not qualify the No. 33 Honda-powered Microsoft Office 2010-sponsored Lola Coupe and the No. 055 Microsoft Office 2010-sponsored Lola Spyder, Level 5 Motorsports took the green flag at the 37th running of the Long Beach Grand Prix, then ran a conservative LMP2 class race Saturday night, turning the Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach into a “test session” to collect information in preparation for next week’s Le Mans Test Day. The effort was enough for their second-consecutive win of the 2011 season and back-to-back Long Beach Grand Prix titles.
The crew has worked really hard getting the cars ready to race here in California.
Limited by a single practice session during the busy weekend, Level 5's strategy was dramatically altered due to less than desirable engine performance. Rather than risk the equipment to run full-bore at Long Beach, the team shifted its eye to the season objectives: Le Mans and a World Championship in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. Scott Tucker, winner of multiple national championships, ran 22 laps and Christophe Bouchut ran 23 in the No. 33 Lola Coupe, enough laps required to score ALMS championship points, before parking the car.
“We came here hoping that the rule change allowing us a larger restrictor plate would give us the boost in power we needed,” said Tucker. “But that never materialized. It’s a pretty disappointing weekend all things considered.”
The Level 5 Motorsports team had originally planned to race its No. 055 Lola Spyder in order to preserve the No. 33 Lola Coupe. Tucker, however, was already slated to score points in the No. 33. IMSA denied Level 5’s request to transfer Tucker’s nomination to the No. 055.
“Our intention was to simply try to protect the No. 33 car,” said Level 5 Motorsports Team Manager David Stone. “We were hoping that we could switch the cars and not put the Coupe at risk. But, with the way the rules are, we weren’t able to do that.
“We’re trying to support the series the best we can, but we still had power issues. We simply didn’t have enough speed differential in qualifying. We have a little time to get ready for the test date at Le Mans. That is our focus at the moment.”
Level 5 Motorsports came to Long Beach with high expectations after coming off an LMP2 class victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring in March. It was announced this week that its two Honda-Powered Lola LMP2 entries would be allowed to use a larger restrictor plate — and thus have more power — giving the team confidence it could contend for an overall victory on the challenging streets of Long Beach. However, the changes allowed did not provide the power boost they were anticipating.
“This was set to be a great weekend for us," said Tucker. "The crew has worked really hard getting the cars ready to race here in California. Right now, what’s most important for us is the test session at Le Mans next week. We’ll take what we’ve learned about the No. 33 Microsoft Office 2010 Lola Coupe and use that at Le Mans.”
The team is eying two championships this season: the ALMS LMP2 class title and a World Championship in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. With the key test next week and the next event on the ILMC — the 24 Hours of Spa — coming up in May — Level 5 remains focused on the prestigious global titles.
“You have to remember that we have only had these cars for a month,” Tucker said. “We plan to make the most of this weekend and keep working on them to be sure we're ready to contend on the international stage.”
Microsoft Office 2010 and Office 365 executives were on hand to enjoy the racing action and witness first hand how the team utilizes the productivity solutions, some of which are being beta tested with the team.
The next ALMS race is set for July 9 at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut, where Level 5 will look to extend its lead in the LMP2 standings.