Daytona24: Level 5 Motorsports race report

Level 5 Teams Overcome Adversity For Strong Finishes in Rolex 24 At Daytona

The Level 5 Motorsports team proved its mettle and its resolve this weekend, spending several laps in front of the pack and securing strong finishes for both its Daytona Prototype entries in the grueling Rolex 24 At Daytona.

The GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series season-opener saw owner / driver Scott Tucker and his stellar lineup of co-drivers take the No. 55 Microsoft Office 2010-sponsored BMW Riley to a solid eighth-place finish, a scant three laps behind the winning No. 01 BMW Riley of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. In a race where the winning car logged 720 laps totaling more than 2,500 miles, the finish was remarkably close. Tucker's co-drivers in the No. 55 were Christophe Bouchut, Mark Wilkins and Luis Diaz.

The team's second entry, the No. 95 BMW Riley, finished 11th after rallying from several incidents throughout the race. Tucker, performing double-duty, was joined in the No. 95 by Ryan Hunter-Reay, Raphael Matos and Richard Westbrook.

"Both of our cars were able to stand up to the test. This is one of the toughest and most prestigious events the racing world has to offer," said Tucker. "Simply to finish this race is an accomplishment within itself.

"But, for both of our cars to finish in the top 11 with such a talented field of teams and drivers, we're proud of the effort from our drivers and our team members."

Tucker started the around-the-clock event behind the wheel of the No. 55 BMW Riley before giving way to Bouchut. The Frenchman fought his way through the field and gave his team members a thrill, taking the lead on lap 85. Bouchut stayed on the point for 26 laps, before pitting for gas and tires.

"To see our car in the lead in the 24 Hours at Daytona ... it doesn't get much better than that," Tucker said. "We've got a great team and I can't say enough about the effort they put in to get these results."

Level 5 Motorsports had a strong contingent of supports on hand to support the team as they returned to the event where they earned their first Grand-Am Rolex Series podium finish just one year ago. In addition to Microsoft Office 2010, eData Solutions, Selling Source, US Bank and Nike adorned the cars for this year's running.

The effort has also been attracting a great deal of media attention recently. International motorsports journalist Diana Binks provided video updates throughout the weekend from the pits giving motorsports enthusiasts around the globe a chance to follow the effort in near real time from behind the scenes. For fans craving even more, the team was also the subject of documentary film that was picked up by Discovery Channel for broadcast to coincide with this year's race.

Both Level 5 Motorsports cars encountered minor problems throughout the event. Ryan Hunter-Reay began the race in the No. 95, but had a fuel injector problem on pit road and was unable to get rolling with the rest of the field. The Level 5 Motorsports team fixed the problem and got Hunter-Reay on the track at the rear of the field.

After climbing out of the No. 55, Tucker was the second driver to climb into the No. 95. During a restart, many cars checked up causing contact between Tucker and another car. It required Tucker to hit the pits for a new nose on the No. 95 BMW Riley.

Raphael Matos, making his second start in the Rolex 24 for Level 5 Motorsports, went off-track in the chicane, requiring more repairs on the No. 95 BMW Riley. The No. 55 BMW Riley also encountered exhaust pipe issues during the endurance event.

The on-track issues seemed to continue a string of nagging issues that plagued the team leading up to the race. Tucker injured his shoulder recently and was advised not to race. Tucker wouldn't let the injury stop him from driving in the prestigious event, and elected to compete with hopes that his shoulder would benefit from the new paddle shifting system allowed on the Daytona Prototype. However, the sanctioning body-approved part never worked correctly and the team went with a traditional shifter, making it tougher for the injured Tucker.

"We finished this brutal race in positions 8 and 11. We stayed within striking distance, but between bad luck and some minor mistakes, it wasn't to be. It's onward and upward now."

Tucker and the Microsoft Office 2010 Level 5 Motorsports team move on to Sebring where they will test on February 9 and 10 for the American Le Mans Series' 12 Hours of Sebring. The ALMS season opener is slated for March 19, beginning at 10:30 a.m., and will mark the Level 5 Motorsports debut in the LMP2 class.

-source: level 5 motorsports

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Series GRANDAM