Level 5 Motorsports and Scott Tucker achieved their goal of a third consecutive class victory in three years at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and three from three in the 2012 American Le Mans Series Presented by Tequila Patron. The No. 95 HPD ARX-03b, driven by team owner-driver Tucker, Luis Diaz and Franck Montagny, claimed second place overall in the 35-strong field after a thrilling and action-packed six hours of racing in California.
The second Level 5 entry, the Alpina Watches-sponsored No. 055 in the hands of Christophe Bouchut as well as Tucker and Montagny, overcame an incident with a GTC car to take third in class and valuable championship points despite being delayed for 35 minutes while repairs were made. The team’s P2 success provided Honda Performance Development with a much applauded 1-2 in the overall results.
A delighted Scott Tucker, who also claimed a pair of class wins in this weekend’s Cooper Tires Prototype Lites series, said afterwards: “Incidents happen in this kind of racing, and that’s why we have two cars - in case something happens to one of them. Franck and Luis drove a great race and Christophe too. There was the mistake with the 055 and a GTC car, but overall I couldn’t be happier. It’s a really special day for us.”
Tucker, a five time national driving champion from Kansas City, together with Luis Diaz of Mexico City and Franck Montagny of France, came out as winners in a close-run battle with the Conquest Endurance Morgan-Nissan which endured for almost the whole race. Tucker took the start in the No. 055 from third place on the grid and class pole, with Luis Diaz in the sister Level 5 HPD ARX-03b just one place behind. The two cars maintained a firm hold on the P2 class lead – one it wasn’t to relinquish despite some strong opposition.
Luis Diaz, who drove a perfect and solid first stint before handing off to Tucker, was a slightly reluctant observer of the tense conclusion: “Watching almost gave me a heart attack!” he smiled. “After all the ups and downs we had it’s a great result. I think Level 5 did a fantastic job and Scott and Franck drove a great race. We tried to keep the car clean and there was a big fight through all the classes amongst the drivers, right to the end so it’s very nice to finish on top of the podium. Our goal is to develop race by race and it’s nice to be on a team with a leader like Scott who pushes us to the limit to be a better team.”
At the two hour 42 minute mark, just after the second round of pit stops, Franck Montagny in the No. 055 had a coming together with a GTC Porsche which resulted in significant damage to the right rear corner of the Level 5 machine. The crew did a superb job in making speedy and effective repairs to the HPD, replacing an axle, suspension geometry and bodywork, before Christophe Bouchut was able to return the car to the race. A total of 35 minutes was spent behind the wall.
Montagny returned to the wheel of the No. 95 for the final section of the race, setting fastest P2 lap time of the race and consistently turning fast laps in order to ensure victory. He acknowledged the fantastic job the team did to repair the car and have it back running again, and said of the incident: “To be honest I didn't see it coming. I was just following Scott, I overtook a beautiful gold car and he hit me in the rear. Then I was in the wall and not so happy. Especially for a team like this, you don't feel good when things like that happen, but the team worked hard and put it back together and got it back on the track. I am a race car driver and I had to do my job so I had to not think about what happened and concentrate on winning. I had a good race against Antonio Pizzonia [in the Conquest P2 entry], who I know from Formula one, so it ended up being a fun race.”
The team now turns its attention fully towards the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. The only official test session takes place on Sunday, June 3 and the car and all equipment will be shipped this week to Europe ready for the test and the race itself which takes place on June 16/17.