Scott Tucker, Level 5 Motorsports Ready for Official Le Mans Test
With the 80th running of the world-famous 24 Hours of Le Mans due to take place on June 16-17, Scott Tucker’s Level 5 Motorsports team is now in France preparing for not just the race, but also the only official pre-event test session on the famous 8.468 mile (13.629km) Circuit de la Sarthe.
With approximately 75 percent of the circuit made up of public roads, which are closed off for competitors at the last possible moment in order not to further disrupt local traffic and residents, the eight hours of track time are vital for drivers and engineers alike. Together with his teammates, Christophe Bouchut and Luis Diaz, Tucker returns to Le Mans this year in the No. 33 HPD ARX-03b to challenge for LMP2 class honors. Last year, the team competed in its first 24 Hours of Le Mans and earned a very creditable podium finish.
The main aims and objectives for the one-day test session are outlined by Level 5 Race Engineer Rick Mayer: “Our main task is to ensure that the HPD is reliable, consistent and comfortable for all three drivers and that we get Luis’s minimum 10-mandatory ‘rookie’ laps completed in good time," Mayer said. "We're bringing two cars to the test day, the No. 33, which will do the race, plus the No. 95 which we’ll use as an additional car for the test. Scott will drive the No.95 almost exclusively all day, while Luis and Christophe will share the No. 33 and that makes it a lot easier in terms of sharing out track time among the drivers.
“Luis hasn’t been to Le Mans before but he’s been doing all he can to get familiar with the circuit and is looking forward to the test and the race," Mayer said. "We're running the Honda Performance Development supplied Le Mans aero kit, and we’ve a nice list of set-up items to go through as well as planning some tire evaluation work.”
There will be 61 cars on track for the official test, six more than will start the twice-round-the-clock French classic in two weeks, and 20 of those will be competing in the LMP2 category in race week. The level of competition and the number of top line entries is higher than ever before, and Scott Tucker knows there will be no room for error either on or off the track. It is a well-known fact that the way to win at Le Mans is to spend the least possible amount of time in the pits.
"At the start of the test day you always think eight hours is so much time, but it just passes in a flash," Tucker said. "A lap at Le Mans is around 3 minutes 45 seconds so one timed lap equates to over 10 minutes with an out-lap and an in-lap and the hours get eaten up pretty quick. With every change you make, you just lose chunks of track time so you have to make every run count."
Tucker, a five-time national driving champion from Kansas City, and Bouchut are the reigning American Le Mans Series P2 champions. The current class leader in the 2012 ALMS championship, the Kansas-resident is approaching his third Le Mans start and achieved a podium finish and was the highest-placed American driver in the race. Christophe Bouchut is one of the most successful endurance drivers in the world and is a past winner of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 24 Hours of Spa. He has been Tucker’s regular co-driver since 2008 and his experience at Le Mans will be fundamental to the team’s progress through the week of practice and qualifying, getting the car to run fast, be well balanced and confidence-inspiring.
Mexican Luis Diaz will find himself in the unfamiliar position of being a ‘rookie’ at the French track, which is situated approximately 120 miles south west of Paris. The 2009 ALMS P2 Drivers Champion has a vast amount of experience on tracks throughout North and South America, and is achieving a life-long ambition by taking his first Le Mans start at the age of 34. Diaz is a two-time American Le Mans Series “Most Popular Driver” award winner and is nicknamed “Chapulin”, meaning grasshopper in Spanish.
The 80th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will begin on Saturday, June 16 at 3.00 pm local CET (10.00 am EST) from the 8-mile Le Mans street course in France, and end at 3.00 pm on Sunday. Official practice/qualifying takes place on Wednesday, June 13 and Thursday, June 14.