Circuit de la Sarthe
Tucker, Level 5 Motorsports Set for Le Mans Start
After two days of practice and qualifying, Level 5 Motorsports is ready to tackle this weekend’s famed 24 Hours of Le Mans. While it’s no doubt been a challenging week for the Scott Tucker-owned squad, making its debut in the world’s biggest endurance race, considerable gains have been made since Wednesday’s first free practice session at the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe.
Tucker, the only American driver competing in prototypes this year, and co-drivers Christophe Bouchut and Joao Barbosa were forced to sit out the majority of Wednesday’s running time after a fuel leak was discovered on the Microsoft Office 2010-sponsored Lola-Honda Coupe once three-time national driving champion Tucker took to LMP2 car out for its first laps.
Opting to fully resolve the issue instead of making a quick fix, the David Stone-led team worked diligently through the evening hours to prepare the car for nighttime action. With just over 30 minutes remaining in the first qualifying session, veteran Frenchman Bouchut climbed aboard the Lola-Honda Coupe to complete the car’s first competitive laps.
Level 5 fared better in Thursday’s final two qualifying sessions, as all three drivers gained valuable track time during the four hours of action. After strong stints by Tucker and co-driver Barbosa’s first laps, Bouchut took the helm of the Microsoft Office 2010-sponsored entry and turned a respectable 3:48.863, the car’s quickest lap time of the week. It marked a considerable 2.2-second gain over Wednesday’s best time.
You can be up one minute and down the next and back up.
While Bouchut’s lap was good enough for the 11th starting position in the highly competitive LMP2 class, the team’s objectives was clearly on preparing a solid and reliable car for the 24 hours. Level 5 is the only American team represented in the prototype ranks in this year’s race and is chasing the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest's global sportscar championship, at the same time.
“As I was able to get some laps in on Wednesday, it was important to let Scott to run the car during the afternoon and for Scott and Joao to make their night laps,” Bouchut said. “But the idea was also to save tires for the race. For that reason, we decided not to use new tires for qualifying. I did the best lap right at the end on double-stinted tires.
“This of course was not the best way to catch the best lap time, but we knew that it would be hard to do a quick lap time due to the technical reasons,” Bouchut continued. “Right now, the most important thing is to think about the race and the reliability of the car.”
With no intention of going for a pole-winning time, Barbosa feels pleased with the progress made over two days of running time. The Portuguese driver is optimistic for a good result this weekend.
“Finally it seems like everything is working well,” Barbosa said. “The goal was just to do some laps and make sure the issues are behind us. We may not have the ultimate speed to be up there, but hopefully we’ll be able to run consistently and score a good finish. At this point, we’re looking forward to the race.”
Level 5 spent Thursday morning giving its Lola-Honda Coupe a complete overhaul, including the installation of its race engine and gearbox. With a near-flawless pair of qualifying sessions now under their belt, which saw the car complete over 40 laps, team manager Stone will be banking on the car’s generally strong reliability to get Tucker, Bouchut and Barbosa to the checkered flag.
“For the race strategy, we certainly know we can’t run on power,” Stone said. “We’re not going to run anybody down if it comes to that. But if we can keep the car out there and go round and round, and maybe other people will have some reliability issues, we’ll have a good shot. Maybe we’ll also get some help on fuel economy.
“The winner of this race, historically speaking, has spent 30 minutes or less in the pits during the course of the 24 hours. If we can hopefully stay close to that, then as the race goes on, we’ll have a pretty good idea. But you never know what could happen. You can be up one minute and down the next and back up. We’ll just have to wait and see how it goes.”
On Saturday, the French tri-colour flag drops at 3 p.m. CET (9 a.m. ET) to start the 79th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In North America, SPEED TV will provide live coverage from 8:30-11:30 a.m. ET and 3:30-8 p.m. ET on Saturday, and 11 p.m.-9:30 a.m. ET on Sunday.
Live streaming video will be available on SPEED.com for the hours not broadcast on-air. For European and Asian viewers, Eurosport will broadcast flag-to-flag coverage across its Eurosport, Eurosport 2 and Eurosport Asia-Pacific platforms. Round-the-clock streaming coverage will also be available on the Eurosport Player web TV service and mobile application. Additionally, Radiolemans.com will provide audio commentary of the full race, including live coverage of practice and qualifying, available on the web and also trackside on 92.1 FM.
-source: level 5 motorsports