Scott Tucker, Level 5 Head to Road Atlanta with Championship on the Line
Madison, Wis. — Level 5 Motorsports has taken seven P2 class victories from nine races, including an overall 1-2 finish; there have been intensely fought on-track battles with inestimable opponents Conquest Endurance; the team has raced in two different countries and seven different states, but the outcome of the 2012 American Le Mans Series championship all comes down to one race: Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Saturday, October 20. Scott Tucker and his team are more than ready for the challenge. A second, consecutive American Le Mans Series P2 Championship is the main prize at stake, with team owner Tucker and his French team mate Christophe Bouchut currently holding a 16-point lead in the drivers’ title chase, and Level 5 Motorsports 23 points ahead in the Team’s championship. Victory at one of North America’s endurance classics is undoubtedly Level 5’s preferred way of rounding off the season, especially among the expanded P2 field which features four entries from the European Le Mans Series in addition to the team’s two Honda Performance Development ARX- 03b entries, the Conquest Endurance Morgan-Nissan and the Dempsey Racing Lola. To boost their bid to seal the championship titles, Level 5 has drafted in two drivers with impeccable credentials – Dario and Marino Franchitti. Scott Tucker, along with regular team mates Christophe Bouchut and Luis Diaz, will be in the No. 055 HPD, while the Kansas-resident will also be behind the wheel of the team’s other entry, the No. 95, with the brothers from Scotland. “We’re thrilled to have Dario and Marino Franchitti with us to close out the season,” said Scott Tucker. “We’ve had a great year, but we’ve battled for every point and learned something each time we’ve run. We’re looking forward to another strong effort at Road Atlanta for Petit Le Mans and having a multiple Indy 500 champion on your side is always a plus. Petit Le Mans has been a happy hunting ground for us in the past, and we took the P2 victory last year which sealed the 2011 championship. A repeat performance is what we need now.” Petit Le Mans, which runs for 1,000 miles or 10 hours, whichever comes first, is one of the biggest draws in the ALMS season and bookends the ALMS’ other endurance classic, the Twelve Hours of Sebring. Only once, in the rain-stopped 2009 race, has the leading team failed to complete 1,000 miles and the duration of the race around the 2.54 mile track has varied between eight hours, 56 minutes (1999) to nine hours, 48 minutes (1998). A 43-strong entry will be racing up, down and around Road Atlanta, situated in the foothills of northern Georgia and north east of Atlanta. Christophe Bouchut recognizes the challenge ahead: “With over 40 cars on the track, the traffic is going to be the biggest challenge. There are not many places for overtaking on this track and it can be difficult but it’s a long race so we have time to think about this. We’re here to win and that’s what we’re going to do. Like at Sebring and Le Mans, we have to stay focused and have no problems, and we will do well.” A well-known figure to ALMS audiences, Marino Franchitti is the younger of the racing brothers and he competed for Level 5 in the 2011 edition of Petit Le Mans. He overcame an early race turbo failure on a three-week old car to set a blistering pace and bring home a fifth place class finish, supporting Tucker, Bouchut and Joao Barbosa on their way to victory. The London-based driver, who competed in June’s 24 Hours of Le Mans in the ground-breaking Nissan DeltaWing P2 car, can’t wait to return to Level 5 and Road Atlanta. “I think that, when you compare it with the classic sportscar races of Sebring, Le Mans and Daytona it feels like it has cemented its place in the hearts of sportscar teams and fans very quickly, despite it not being nearly as long established,” reflected Marino Franchitti. “It’s a special event and an important race to win, and the atmosphere the fans create is amazing.” Marino continued: “I think Dario and I can really contribute to Level 5’s bid for the P2 championship. The No. 055 car has to complete 70 percent of the race to win the championship, so our task in the No. 95 car is to help them and take points from our competitors. With so many strong P2 teams coming from Europe for this year’s race, it’s going to change the dynamic the class has had so far this year in the ALMS, and it’s going to be a very exciting challenge.” While Marino needs no introduction to ALMS audiences, older brother Dario is recognized by motorsport fans on a global basis. The four-time IZOD Indycar Series champion and three-time Indy 500 winner has a passion for all things automotive and, schedules permitting, has combined sportscar races in both the ALMS and Grand Am for several years. However, the rare opportunity to race alongside his brother always get his attention and is a big draw although he says “I think I’ll have to pedal very hard to keep up with him though!!” Dario Franchitti: “When I realized the Audis and Toyotas were going to be on WEC duty it was clear P2 was going to be a hugely competitive prototype class, perhaps the most competitive. If everything goes our way then an overall win could be possible but the first order of business is to secure Scott the championship and win our class. I’m very much looking forward to racing in the ALMS again. I’ve seen the fortunes of sportscar racing ebb and flow over the years, but the ALMS is one of the few championships left with very open technical rules which is a massive plus point in my opinion.” 2009 ALMS P2 Champion Luis Diaz considers Petit Le Mans as one of his out-and-out favorites: “I’m not exactly sure what it is about this track but I have always been very strong here and it definitely suits my driving style. Taking the pole position last year was very special and I hope we can repeat this week and follow it up with a win. We’ve had a great battle with Conquest all year and it’s made for great racing, and I know that not only the drivers and the teams but also the fans have really enjoyed it. But, at the end of the day, we’ve won the most races, had the most poles, and I’m confident that we’ll do what we need to do this weekend to make sure we win the championship again.” The final race of the 2012 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón is Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda. The 1,000-mile/10-hour race from Road Atlanta is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 20. ABC’s broadcast begins at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 21. Full, live coverage starts at 11:15 a.m. ET on ESPN3.