As Level 5 Motorsports prepares to return to France for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, we are taking an in-depth look at the preparation that goes into fielding a world-class entry into the World's Most Prestigious Endurance Race. Installment two of...
MADISON, Wis. — Preparation is one the keys to success in the world-famous 24 Hours of Le Mans, and for many teams, including Level 5 Motorsports, that means having a well-organized and professional-looking garage and paddock space.
Always considered to be one of the best-presented teams in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón paddock, the three-time series champion has taken its Le Mans setup to the next level, in both efficiency and design, as the Scott Tucker-owned organization prepares for the biggest race of the year.
Once the colossal job of transporting more than 15 tons of equipment, including both of its Honda Performance Development ARX-03b race cars, across the Atlantic is complete, the task of assembling its temporary base for the next four weeks begins. And it isn’t quite as simple as parking a transporter and pitching a tent.
Unlike many circuits in America, each team at Le Mans is allocated a pit-side garage to work from, along with additional paddock space at the rear. While European teams typically utilize that area for a 18-wheeler tractor trailer, Level 5 has maximized its space by constructing a large tent that measures 65-feet long and 16-feet wide. It was an idea first conceived prior to last year’s event.
"You see all of these double-decker trucks that no doubt look cool, but they're highly inefficient,” says team manager David Stone. “They don't maximize the footprint you're allowed in space behind the garage. Whereas the tent is custom-built to the exact size of our footprint, so it gives all the inside space. Everything is inside. It's more cost-effective and flexible. To me, it's the smart way to go.”
Housing everything from tires to toolboxes and shock dynos to spare parts, Level 5’s tent has grown vertically this year, with the addition of a second floor to hold even more equipment. It’s not only given the team additional space, but also keeps everything organized under a single roof, whereas some parts were previously stored outside.
“We now have two mezzanines where the spare parts are going to go,” crew chief Ken Swan explains. “Once spare noses have been fitted on the car and the lights work and the aero is set, it goes up top. That way, we're saving floor space. Things we know we won't need until the race will be labeled and go up top.”
Level 5 has also gone through great lengths to ensure a well-designed garage. In 2012, prior to last year’s race, Stone, Swan and its in-house CAD designer made a reconnaissance trip to create a 3D computer rendering of the space. With accuracy down to the millimeter, it helped the team and renowned motorsports pit box designer Showtrax assemble a visually appealing garage, complete with chrome-plated wallboards and a carbon fiber-constructed halo, which sits above the car and blows cold air.
"We know exactly what's there,” Stone says of the garage space, thanks to the CAD drawings. “Where there's a pipe in the way, if there's a sink in the way, whatever... We know exactly how our Level 5 kit, from the wallboards and halos, needs to be made. When we arrive there, our garage, from a presentation standpoint, electrical and lighting, will all be set up and done. We'll just have to move in."
While it will be a seamless transition for the team, which has again been assigned garage No. 55 for this year, Level 5 also benefits from its continued relationship with a local team, which provides off-site shop space for composite repair, paintwork and any other projects that may be needed over the course of the month-long trip.
Tasting the victory champagne doesn’t come easy, but with a well-organized infrastructure in place, and the support of its at-track partners, Level 5 is one step closer to achieving top honors in the world’s greatest endurance race, thanks to its high level of preparation.
Level 5 Motorsports