Le Mans, France - Overcoming adversity in one of the toughest endurance races in recent history, Level 5 Motorsports achieved a well-earned finish in the 90th anniversary 24 Hours of Le Mans. Team principal Scott Tucker took the No. 33 Siemens/Alpina Watches/Ohiya Casino Resort-sponsored Honda Performance Development ARX-03b to the checkered flag Sunday afternoon at Circuit de la Sarthe.
Nine-time national driving champion Tucker and co-drivers Marino Franchitti and Ryan Briscoe entered the French endurance classic with high hopes, despite an unrepresentative qualifying effort that put them far back on the starting grid. However, a stunning opening quadruple stint by the IZOD IndyCar Series star saw the Michelin-shod prototype move up to third in the competitive LMP2 class.
While the early pace proved Level 5’s potential to fight for a podium result, a series of unscheduled pit stops, first for a tire puncture and followed by trips to the garage to add water to the HPD HR28TT 2.8 L Turbo V6 direct injection engine. It resulted in the car slipping down the running order during the cold and damp nighttime hours, which featured multiple safety car periods for accidents, as well as changeable weather conditions.
“We always come to Le Mans with high expectations, but to finish the race is often a victory in itself,” Tucker said. “It was a rough one for us, and everyone, this weekend. I’m proud of the team for never giving up. We showed some good pace but it wasn’t meant to be. This is one of the toughest races to win in the world and everything has to go your way. Hopefully, we’ll get the opportunity to return next year for another go at it.”
Franchitti, who drove a near 4 hour-long overnight stint, commented: “It was a really challenging race in all ways for the Level 5 team, but it was encouraging compared to where we were in qualifying. From the moment I had that puncture early on, it was one of those things that spiraled, all things out of our control, unfortunately. It was the toughest Le Mans I’ve done. Just with everything that was going on, the preparation with all the reds and so little track time. I think we maximized what we had and that’s all you can do, really.”
The decision to remain in the garage until the final moments proved to be the right call, as a sudden downpour with less than 90 minutes to go resulted in accidents for a number of cars. For Level 5, the focus quickly turned towards ensuring having a pristine car for the upcoming stretch of races in the ALMS, where the team currently leads the P2 championship.
"The engine-related issue wasn't going away and for a lot of reasons, we decided to park the car until the final few laps,” explained Level 5 team manager David Stone. “We have to go to Lime Rock, which is part of a points championship for us, and the guys only have a couple of days to turn the car around.
“To go out on the track and run it, and for the safety of our drivers and the safety of other people that are on the track, we felt it was better to come in the garage, clean the car up and just go out before the end of the race and have Scott Tucker finish the race. We felt that was the best choice. It's disappointing to the team and everybody involved, but sometimes you just have to do the right thing."
Level 5 Motorsports