Scott Tucker, looking back: the Long Beach street circuit

By Patty Johnston

September 30, 2011 - 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.

The Level 5 Motorsports team is nothing if not relentless. Relentless in their determination, relentless in their speed, and relentless in their ability to win. Only such a team could finish the way the Scott Tucker-owned, Microsoft Office-sponsored did at the Long Beach, Calif., street circuit. The No. 55 Le Mans Prototype Challenge entry set a record on the Long Beach track, a notoriously challenging circuit for drivers. The Level 5 team went on to finish second in the race, a podium finish that secured Tucker and co-driver Christophe Bouchut's top rankings in overall point standings.

The team was pleased with its performance at Long Beach, one of the toughest tracks on the Level 5 schedule. The momentum they built less than a month earlier winning the 12 Hours of Sebring in LMP2 was amped considerably with the historic finish in California. The Long Beach track has a history of causing race difficulties because it is slick and doesn't provide much opportunity to pass. Additionally, any track becomes challenging as races wear on and conditions become dirtier, but Long Beach's narrow lanes exacerbate the challenge considerably.

Focusing on driving smart and preserving the car isn't easy at triple-digit speeds with a running clock, but the Level 5 drivers know what they're doing. Bouchut, who delivered the record-breaking qualifying run, is a veteran racer and one of the most successful endurance drivers in the world. He won three FIA GT titles and an FFSA GT championship-making him the only triple FIA GT champion in history. Tucker, though an ALMS rookie in 2010, has never relented in his near-perfect performances, balanced precision and complete command of the track. Case in point: He won Champion Driver in 2010.

Bouchut took the wheel and fought Gunnar Jeannette both in qualifying and finals. Jeannette ultimately pulled ahead of Bouchut just at the finish line, but Bouchut maintains his record for fastest lap in the LMPC class, during lap 56. Tucker had delivered negative splits during his laps on the track. He managed brilliant maneuvers even through traffic, which set up the Level 5 team well enough to be a formidable challenger for the No. 1 spot and ultimately clinch the No. 2 spot in the race-Level 5's second consecutive podium finish in the season, a monumental start for the team's 2011 year.

With no remaining ALMS contests until mid-year, the showing at Long Beach was an important benchmark for the Level 5 Motorsports team. The outstanding success despite the difficulty of the track was a telling indicator of the strength and winning ability of the drivers and the team. The coming weeks would bring another California competition, this time in Sonoma in the Ferrari Challenge series.

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