The pinnacle of the 2011 American Le Mans series takes place on Oct. 1 with the 14th annual Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. For Scott Tucker, driver and owner for Level 5 Motorsports, the race marks the beginning of his sixth year of professional racing. In 2006, he made his professional debut at Petit Le Mans, and from there, his career took off.
“There are not many Americans that get to race there, first and foremost, so I feel very privileged to be among that group,” he said. “This year, we’re the only American prototype team there. We feel very fortunate we were selected to race there.”
The Petit Le Mans race is an endurance race modeled after the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is its equivalent for the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup series. Road Atlanta owner Don Panoz founded it, and the first iteration ran on Oct. 10, 1998-and Panoz must have had a thing for tens, because the race covers a maximum of 1,000 miles or a minimum of 10 hours, whichever comes first. Class winners of Petit Le Mans automatically qualify for the following year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Tucker has increasingly focused on the American Le Mans Series as his career has continued. After he founded Level 5 Motorsports in 2008, his main actions have included drafting talented veterans known for incredible precision even at maximum speeds. This year’s Petit Le Mans has unofficially been the holy grail in Tucker’s eyes: Mid-season, he announced the switch from the team’s Nos. 55 and 95 Microsoft Office-sponsored LMP2 cars to a brand new, right-off-the-line HPD ARX-01g chassis, the result of a partnership between Honda Performance Development and Wirth Research. Tucker pushed hard to get the car finished as quickly as possible, of course without sacrificing quality. While making the transition between cars, Tucker even withdrew from ALMS races in Lime Rock Park and a huge one at Silverstone in Great Britain, choosing instead to focus on the all-important Petit ahead.
Now, Tucker has added a fourth elite driver to his already well-stacked team. Marino Franchitti will join the team and its new car-which Tucker marks as best in its class-for the 2011 race at Road Atlanta. Franchitti has extensive experience with the HPD prototype family, having participated in the first year of development of the ARX-01a with Andretti Green Racing before spending some LMP2 time with Dyson Racing. The addition of Franchitti to the lineup is an obvious sign that Tucker is going for the win at Petit Le Mans, though that’s never not the case when Tucker enters a race track. He is a three-time national driving champion. Level 5 Motorsports’ performance in 2010 during its debut year in the American Le Mans Series sent them to the top of the podium and bumped them into the LMP2 category.
Tucker has made giant strides since his Petit Le Mans professional debut in 2006, and this year he’s possibly the most prepared he’s ever been. A victory would mean another addition to Tucker’s unbelievable record in the past five years, and moving to the LMP1 category would mean that Tucker has made it to the top class in the sport he seemingly was born to compete in. Whatever the results end up meaning for Level 5 Motorsports, the work they’ve already put in this year make it clear that the team is one of the most prolific, aggressive racing organizations in the world.
Check out Scott Tucker, owner and driver, of Level 5 Motorsports at http://tinyurl.com/6d4f7zs