By Kaitlyn Tillman
Scott Tucker and his Level 5 Motorsports teammates recently began the final quarter of a racing year that has included numerous podium appearances, multiple car changes, incredible accomplishments and yet still room for improvement. Tucker, owner and driver for Level 5, has been a leader for the team despite the rookie status he maintained merely months ago. His tight, balanced driving has earned him top honors in the American Le Mans Series as Rookie of the Year and Champion Driver in 2010. His races often end with stints on the podium, and his career has only just begun.
As Tucker, his co-drivers Christophe Bouchut and Luis Diaz and team manager David Stone prepare to close the calendar year with the all-important Petit Le Mans and the Ferrari International Finals, the stakes are high—the team has woven itself a reputation of excellence that is best understood by looking back at what has made 2011 a stunning year for Level 5 Motorsports.
Scott Tucker is undoubtedly a good race car driver, but when you add the fact that he competes not only in the ALMS and the ILMS but also the Ferrari Challenge series, Tucker becomes an unbelievable race car driver—unbelievable not only because of the schedule he keeps, but because of his continual success on the track. The first FC race of the 2011 year for Tucker and his Level 5 Motorsports team was the debut of the Ferrari 458 Challenge—the 5th model to be used since the series began in the early 90s—at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.
The 458 model was new to the race, but Tucker and the car were old friends. He tested the car exclusively in Spain the previous fall and again at the 12 Hours of Sebring weekend in the spring of 2011. The Ferrari 458 model is lighter and faster compared to its Italia 458 counterpart. The vehicle boasts 570 horsepower; 9,000 RPM direct injection V8 engine, and its gearbox is modified to increase torque at lower revolutions. The car is also equipped with a top-quality traction control system that was developed by Ferrari. The system is based on logic and strategies from Ferrari’s experience in the Formula One series.
Tucker entered the 2011 FC season with four wins on the Infineon course, which covers approximately 2.5 miles with 12 turns. Overall, the Level 5 team fared well in the weekend’s pair of FC races. “We came out with two cars, but because we were trying a new product with a new seat, it caused some issues with technical people here, so we pulled out one car,” said team manager David Stone. “The car we were able to run didn’t get the new gearbox update, so we’ve been tentative about that.”
But a race car is only as good as the sum of all its parts—and one of those parts is the driver. Tucker started the first race in fifth place. After some contact around the first corner, he bunkered down and worked his way up the rankings. His smart driving earned Level 5 a first-place ranking. “We extremely happy we got the win here with our 458 car,” said one engineer.
“I was trying to get up as fast as I could without making contact or being too aggressive,” said Tucker. “We had a good car, and fortunately it worked out for us in the end.”
The second of the FC pair wasn’t as seamless as its predecessor; Level 5 decided not to qualify because of a first-lap penalty the day before. “We have a double whammy where we started in the back and we had another penalty,” Stone said. “Scott will have his work cut out for him. Getting on the podium is a tall order on this track.”
In addition to the penalties and race placement, Tucker and the Level 5 team had to face the challenge of a shorter race—the clock ran approximately 10 minutes short in 2011 compared to previous years. “There will be a little less time to work toward the front, but it is what it is, and the goal will be to come out of here with as many points as we can,” Stone said.
Tucker delivered a stellar performance despite the hiccups, weaving through traffic efficiently with the front of the line his unwavering goal. Although the 458 car started last, Tucker brought it across the line sixth, no small feat considering the circumstances. “It was a good race; we started last and finished sixth with no damage to the car,” Tucker said. “It’s about as good as you can do.”
With a solid performance again in May at the first FC series race of the year, Tucker continued on his whirlwind race schedule with an ILMC stop in Belgium for the Spa.
Kaitlyn Tillman has been keeping a close eye on Scott Tucker, owner and driver, of Level 5 Motorsports throughout the past year to keep you posted about the success of the dream team. To get more information about Tucker, check out http://www.planetlemans.com/?s=scott+tucker