2011 Le Mans Test Day
Level 5 Motorsports Heads to Le Mans for Official Test
Following back-to-back American Le Mans Series victories, Level 5 Motorsports continues its global tour this weekend at Le Mans, the birthplace of sports car racing, where the Scott Tucker-owned organization makes its debut at the world-renowned Circuit de la Sarthe.
Steeped in history, the famed semi-permanent circuit in Northwest France first played host to automobile racing in 1923 with the inaugural 24 Hours of Le Mans. Now in its 79th running, Level 5 Motorsports and other world-class teams will use Sunday’s official test as a warm-up for the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic on June 11-12.
The defending ALMS LMPC champions have come to Le Mans well prepared for the task at hand. With two Microsoft Office 2010-sponsored Lola-Honda Coupes in its arsenal, one fresh from the LMP2 class victory at last weekend’s Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach, the David Stone-led team have pulled out all stops to maximize its testing time on the 8.5-mile circuit.
“Le Mans is the Superbowl of endurance racing, so any chance for the team to get more familiar with the car and for us drivers to gain extra seat time is great,” Tucker said. “Those kind of opportunities are hard to come by in racing, especially when you’re preparing for the biggest race in the world.”
Tucker knows that first hand, having competed in last year’s race at the wheel of an LMP1-class Audi. While the three-time national champion quickly got up to speed in his Le Mans debut, turning some of the car’s fastest laps in race, Tucker feels that experience has better prepared him for this time around.
“Having that first experience under your belt is huge,” Tucker said. “I already know the track and I’m more comfortable heading into this weekend. Last year being here for the first time and having to qualify at night and learn the track at the same time was challenging. I’m actually looking forward to it this year.”
Tucker will again team with Frenchman Christophe Bouchut and Portuguese driving standout Joao Barbosa in the No. 33 Microsoft Office 2010-sponsored Lola B11/80 Honda Coupe. Bouchut, a veteran of 17 starts at Le Mans, won the 24-hour classic in 1993 at the wheel of a Peugeot 905 and has fond memories of the legendary race.
“It’s really nice to have won Le Mans already because as I’ve learned, it’s not very easy to win again!” Bouchut said. “It’s a very important weekend as we have to work quietly and evaluate everything to see where we are. Le Mans is still a big race and many times it’s not the fastest car that wins the race. Our goal this weekend is to evaluate the power and make an easy driving setup.”
Barbosa, who made his debut with Level 5 Motorsports at last month’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, is no stranger to endurance racing success either, having won the 2010 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. He has made six previous starts at Le Mans, recording a best finish of fourth overall in 2007.
All three drivers are expected to share the wheel of the two Lola-Hondas, with Tucker planning to gain a considerable amount of time in Level 5‘s new No. 34 entry. That car, which is entered for the test day-only, will serve as a spare chassis for the team’s upcoming Intercontinental Le Mans Cup events at Spa-Francorchamps, Le Mans and Imola.
Level 5 has yet to gain a good reading of how their Lola-Hondas stack up to the LMP2 competition. While Le Mans organizers, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, gave the 2.8-liter V6 twin-turbo a 1.2 mm larger air restrictor for Long Beach, the team is anxiously awaiting to see how much of a difference it can make on a high-speed circuit such as Le Mans.
“By the end of the test, I think we’ll have a pretty good feeling of where we’ll be,” team manager David Stone said. “I’m sure, like everybody, people will be keeping something in their pocket. I don’t know if we’ll be fortunate enough to keep something in our pocket because so many things are new for us. So we’ll have to wait and see how the information flows from the data and from the drivers on Sunday.”
Sunday’s test will be split up into a pair of four-hour sessions. The action gets underway at 9 a.m. France time (3 a.m. ET), with Radiolemans.com providing live audio commentary throughout the day.
-source: level 5 motorsports