Just as most of us in life have a ‘bucket list’ of things we dream about doing, every race car driver has a ‘wish list’ of races and tracks they want to drive before they finally hang up their helmet. The world’s most famous sports car race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, features heavily on the lists of drivers the world over.
Scott Tucker’s Level 5 Motorsports team, currently leading the P2 championship in the American Le Mans Series, is fulfilling Mexican driver Luis Diaz’s Le Mans dream in naming him as part of their top-class driver line up for next month’s 80th running of the event.
The 2009 P2 Champion will be making his debut at the French classic, driving alongside his regular ALMS team mates Scott Tucker (USA) and Christophe Bouchut (FRA), and the 34-year-old resident of Mexico City can’t hide his excitement at the prospect of driving the twice-round-the-clock race: “It's hard to describe how excited I am to finally be making my debut at Le Mans! It's always been my dream to compete there and what better way to do it than with Level 5 Motorsports who will no doubt be one of the favorite teams to take the LMP2 class victory. I have been going around telling everybody I know about this news; it’s like I'm a little kid with a new toy.”
Tucker and Level 5 will return to Le Mans this year in the No. 33 HPD ARX-03b LMP2 prototype. Last year the team competed in its first 24 Hours of Le Mans and earned a podium finish with Tucker, Frenchman Christophe Bouchut and Portuguese veteran Joao Barbosa sharing the driving duties.
The highly popular Diaz, winner of the ALMS 2009 ‘Most Popular Driver’ Award, believes the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the most important race for any sportscar driver and continues, “Since I started my career, my focus has been finding a way to make it there and try to win the race. Other than racing in Mexico in front of all my friends and fans, I can truly say that this race is the only other one that has been in my "races to do" list since I began my career.”
Recognized as the toughest test for man and machine, Le Mans is a marathon event in every respect. An eight-mile track made up primarily of public roads, 56 competitors, a challenging timetable which sees practice/qualifying end at midnight on the Wednesday and Thursday nights leading into the race weekend, and 250,000 passionate spectators to drive on the 165 drivers. The official test weekend, during which Diaz will be required to complete a mandatory minimum of 10 racing laps as his ‘Rookie’ test, will be the first time that he sets eyes on the track.
“Although I've never been around it, we have been doing a lot of laps in the simulator and have watched a lot of video,” says Luis. “Obviously there's nothing like the real thing, but the simulators these days are very realistic and they definitely help make the learning curve a lot easier. You hear a lot about the magnitude of the event and how impressive the size of the crowd is, and just how magical the atmosphere is. Even though I feel like I know a lot about it, I have a feeling that there is nothing like experiencing it in person and I am sure I will be very impressed when I get there. I can't wait!”
The only Mexican driver to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans overall to date has been Pedro Rodriguez who took JW Automotive Engineering’s Ford GT40 to victory in 1968. Luis Diaz will be one of three Mexicans competing in 2012, and he will be alongside his former team mate and 2009 ALMS co-champion Adrian Fernandez in the LMGT-Pro class and Ricardo Gonzalez in the same LMP2 class as Level 5 Motorsports.
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.