The tenth installment in our series looks at the behind the scenes efforts of the people who keep the Level 5 team members fed during their month-long stay at Le Mans.
LE MANS, FRANCE -- With the Level 5 Motorsports crew stationed in France, more than 4,000 miles away from their homes for nearly an entire month, keeping the team healthy and properly nourished while in a foreign country for an extended period of time can be crucial to achieving successes on the race track.
In order to keep their crew on the top of their game, the Scott Tucker-owned organization entrusts Vanessa’s Hospitality Service as Level 5’s “home away from home” for the team’s at-track meals, as well as driver lodging and other arrangements.
Entering her 23rd year at Le Mans, Vanessa Weikart and her team operates one of the largest and most successful team and guest hospitality services, offering a wide selection of American-style food options from the time the Level 5 crew arrives in France in early June to when they depart the days following the 24-hour race.
"Vanessa's is that American colony in France. You can walk into her tent and suddenly feels like you're back home,” says Level 5 chief strategist Jeff Braun. “It's familiar surroundings and familiar food and cooked the way you expect it. It's a real treat for everybody to be able to go to Vanessa's. Unlike the ALMS races where you go there for 15 minutes, eat and leave, you can sit there for an hour and have a nice meal and get away from the whole thing and enjoy the atmosphere.”
This month, the Level 5 crew will have more than 900 catered meals from Vanessa’s alone. That’s in addition to the 170 cases of drinks, 327 pounds of fresh fruit and 1,600 coffee capsules and cups back at the team’s tent in order to keep the team fueled during the month-long trip, including the grueling 24-hour race itself.
"Vanessa has done a great job for us at Le Mans,” team manager David Stone says. “She has all of the connections and makes it convenient because the drivers RVs can be right in the paddock next to her tent. She arranges all of that for us. Her tent is right around the corner from our garage, so it's real convenient for the guys because they have a short walk to get their food.”
While the Level 5 crew spends the majority of their time putting in the best possible for success, that’s not to say they never get out to explore a bit of the French flavor after long days at the track. A popular destination is the Le Mans city centre, a short trip via tram from the their hotel, which offers a wide selection of restaurants, including the Le Mans Legend Cafe, a team favorite.
“It's nice to get the guys out of the track and enjoy France as well,” crew chief Ken Swan says. “You can't just kill them and be at the track all the time. That was kind of what we did last year because we were getting parts late and we were at the track so much. One of my goals is to try and let the guys have some fun on a Friday and get some steam off and let them know they need to enjoy it as well. But we’re not here to party; our main goal is clearly to win the race and the crew is mindful of that.”
Level 5 Motorsports