NEW RECORDS BEFORE THE 2012 ALMS CROWN
Tucker and Bouchut take their 5th victory from 9 races for Level 5 Motorsports and KENNOL in a huge P2 battle in the VIR 240 at Virginia International Raceway. The team’s results, achieved despite the many incidents and penalties, firmly keeps alive their championship title aspirations and the battle with Conquest Endurance will go down to the wire and the final round of the season in a month’s time.
This 9 month battle in LMP2 ends at Petit Le Mans…
▌ THE RACE FOR THE CROWN IS IN ITS FINAL STAGES
As the 2012 American Le Mans Series enters its final stages, Level 5 Motorsports and the entire field take on a new challenge: the 2012 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron VIR 240. The ninth and penultimate round of the series at the glorious Virginia International Raceway (VIR) venue at Danville, Virginia is a new venue for the ALMS, but there will be little time to worry about that as Scott Tucker and Christophe Bouchut hunt down their second consecutive P2 Championship title.
There are just 12 points separating Tucker and Bouchut at the head of the leaderboard from their nearest rivals, Conquest Endurance’s David Heinemeier Hansson and Martin Plowman. With the VIR race being four hours in length, strategy as well as speed and performance come into play – all areas in which Level 5 Motorsports has proven itself to excel during the season.
The four-hour race was a back-and-forth affair between the No. 055 and the No. 37 car of Heimemeier Hansson and Martin Plowman. Although it might have initially appeared that Level 5 were at a disadvantage by starting from the back of the grid (following a post-qualifying tire change), it took Tucker just three laps to get up to p13 amongst the 31-strong field and just ten laps to reach 10th overall and third in P2. Moreover, because of his starting position, Tucker had fortuitously avoided a first lap, first corner melée which affected the race’s outcome for many competitors.
Bouchut took the wheel of the No. 055 1hr 17 minutes into the event and set his sights on catching and passing the leading P2 car. However, on the narrow and tricky VIR track, more than one competitor was caught out when passing a slower car and the Frenchman was unlucky enough to not only have contact with a GTC and a PC car on two occasions but also to be penalized heavily for it. The eventual result is all the more admirable because of this added challenge.
Bouchut said afterwards: “It was an unbelievable race. After my first penalty I was thinking “ooh zut,” the race will be over for us, and after the second I was very downhearted and thought today is not our day. So when I heard that Conquest got the same penalty as us, it really opened up the race again and I started to fly again on the track. To be honest it wasn’t easy at all to overtake GT and slower cars without taking some risk. I’m sorry for all the cars I hit, it was completely unintentional.”
But it was also a day which tested the team to its limits as the No. 95 entry of Luis Diaz and Ricardo Gonzalez was excluded from the results after failing a post-race stall test. The Mexican duo had originally finished third in the P2 class in their Honda Performance Development ARX 03b.
Ricardo Gonzalez had taken the start in the No. 95 Level 5 HPD and got slightly caught up in the first lap incident but appeared to escape without too much damage. He went on to challenge for the class lead before handing off to Diaz just short of the 2-hour mark. The two Level 5 cars held 1st and 2nd in class in the final hour before the Conquest car managed to muscle its way through in the last 15 minutes. In post-race tech, all podium finishing cars are subject to a ‘stall test’ during which the air intake is covered to check that no more air can get to the engine than the rules allow.
While the car is idling, the air intakes are physically blocked. Blocking the air intakes should prevent all air getting into the engine, causing it to stall but, if it doesn’t, it means that some additional air is getting to the engine and it’s possible that extra air could deliver more power than regulated. It’s not yet known what caused the No.95 to fail the stall test but it could be anything from a seal which has leaked to a crack in an engine manifold.