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.
In mid-March, following a modest but strong showing at the Rolex 24 at Daytona several weeks earlier, the Level 5 Motorsports team made its LMP2 debut. After winning its LMP class in 2010, the drivers nabbed the LMP2 distinction. As has become somewhat of a tradition in the past year, the team was working feverishly to finish its entry car in time for the starting flag. In a matter of just days, the Lola Honda was finished and shipped to Florida for its race debut and the team’s class debut.
Level 5 drivers Scott Tucker, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Luis Diaz split time commanding the racetrack. Tucker told members of the media that the 12 Hours of Sebring was a “test run” for the Lola Honda, as it had come straight off the assembly floor, but if Sebring was a test, Level 5 Motorsports scored an A+. Even in the face of a handful of mishaps and issues, the drivers drove strong and finished strong, making up for any mistakes with skillful maneuvering around turns and careful, strategic straightaway shots. The Level 5 Motorsports team secured an LMP2 victory, reliving their LMP success from the previous year. Tucker also won the Champion Driver award at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2010.
The Lola Honda wasn’t the fastest car through the straights, but she shined when the track started to bend. Tucker and Diaz made the first rounds of the Sebring International Speedway and made clear their class dominance early on. Strong showings from the drivers on the first two legs of the race still left work to be done by Hunter-Reay, a Florida native. Hunter-Reay drove an excellent leg, recovering plenty of time for the team and ultimately whizzing past the finish line at the front of the pack.
“The team had some issues but made up for lost time,” Tucker said. “Ryan had a grew last few laps.” Although the Lola Honda was barely finished before tackling a notoriously grueling 12-hour race, the car didn’t show any signs of fatigue or wear at race’s end. The team didn’t face any mechanical issues, and nary a scratch was visible on the body at the end of the day. “We’re pleased with the vehicle performance,” Tucker said. “We knew we had a great car, and we’re eager to see what we can do with it.”
The Level 5 team, along with other entries, donned Japan stickers on their cars to honor the country after the earthquake and tsunami that had occurred in the time leading up to the Sebring race.
Reaching podium on the first ALMS appearance of the year was exactly the start Level 5 Motorsports had hoped for coming into Sebring. With plenty of races to come before the championship Petit le Mans in October, they had a lot of work ahead of them, a lot of miles to drive, and a lot of potential for successes to come.
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://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703940904575395452654498336.html