By Brent Arends
There has been no shortage of publicity regarding the Scott Tucker-owned Level 5 Motorsports racing team’s mid-season decision to switch cars. Despite the risks the change brought of interrupting the explosive momentum the team has maintained since the season’s open, as well as the potential points lost by withdrawing from races while the car was being finished, the change has been nothing but positive. The marriage Level 5’s skillful and talented drivers; the integrity, innovation and reputation of Honda Performance Development; and the precision and technique of Wirth Research has benefited all three groups.
When the wait for Level 5’s new LMP2 Lola Honda Spyder was over, it was obvious the car was well worth it. Not that Level 5 had too much to worry about, with wins at the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Grand Prix of Long Beach, along with podium finishes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Six Hours of Imola, all during the team’s debut LMP2 season. When the team ignited the engine on the raceway for the first time at ModSpace American Le Mans Monterey presented by Patron, they bettered their season in the only way to better an already winning season: They made history. Tucker and co-drivers Christophe Bouchut and Luis Diaz earned their highest overall finish of the season at the Laguna Seca race. The car didn’t require a single unscheduled pit stop or encounter any unexpected issues, which easily secured the team’s fourth LMP2 victory of the season and Tucker and Bouchut’s drivers’ championships.
Bouchut nailed a best time of 1: 16.867 in the new HPD ARX-01g, which is just a second behind the LMP1 winning car’s fastest lap. With this being the first iteration of the HPD ARX-01g, with development still in early stages for cost-capped configurations, the pace was impressive, especially considering the model had less than three hours of run time prior to the endurance test.
The lofty expectations for the new Honda before it was finished were valid enough that Tucker had reserved the first two chassis that were produced, and the team waited patiently for its new and improved car, even withdrawing from competitions in order to have it in time for Petit Le Mans. The hype surrounding the car, both before it was proven and following its tenacious debut, solidified the partnership between Wirth Research and Honda Performance Development (HPD), as Wirth announced Sept. 9 the beginning of a new long-term technical partnership with Honda.
Wirth and HPD have been working together since 2003, but the new relationship extends the companies’ sports prototype programs and includes a new IndyCar project. In an official Wirth press release, the company notes that the unyielding success of its LMP1 and LMP2 cars in the past year have opened the opportunity to build on the achievements and begin to evaluate several new projects for high-profile clients.
“We looked through the numbers, inside and out, and from our perspective, there’s no doubt the Honda package in the new cost-capped configuration will be a front-runner in LMP2,” Tucker said, after making the mid-season decision to switch cars. “We’ve seen gains with the engine all year, and the exciting thing is that there’s still room for improvement.” Members of the Level 5 team even visited the Wirth Research center to check out their new set of wheels in production.
It’s not just any car that can evoke so much anticipation out of an already dominant racing team. It can be expected that as long as there’s improvement in the prototypes, teams like Level 5—which constantly strategizes and evaluates situations to optimize the chance of a victory—will keep HPD and Wirth high on their radars. The new long-term partnership between the companies is the exciting beginning of an era of innovation and ultimate performance ability in motorsports.
Brent Arends has been keeping a close eye on Scott Tucker, owner and driver, of Level 5 Motorsports throughout the past year. To get more information about Tucker, check out http://www.motorsport.com/#/all/search/?q=scott%252520tucker