A dress rehearsal for the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans took place Sunday in France, and was an extremely successful day for Scott Tucker and Level 5 Motorsports. After eight hours of testing, split into two four-hour sessions, the team achieved all its pre-defined goals and set some very competitive times in the tightly-contested LMP2 category.
Christophe Bouchut recorded a fast lap of 3:41.598 in the No. 33 HPD ARX-03b to claim second in class, only narrowly edged out by the French Oak Racing team. However, times recorded in a test session are relatively meaningless as teams run different strategies in terms of fuel loads, tire wear and set ups to individually prepare for the race.
The one-day test was the only official pre-event session before the main event that begins June 16 and Kansas City native Tucker profited from the occasion to run a second HPD. He achieved almost 600 miles in the No. 95 car although this chassis will not be entered for the race.
"We had a pretty good day and got a serious amount of miles under our belts," Tucker said. "Our engineering team had a long list of things for us to try and we methodically worked our way through that, despite there being a few interruptions for rain showers and red flags. We got to the end of the day without any damage to either of the cars, and are looking in good shape for the race."
Tucker said competing at Le Mans in the past is a definite advantage.
"Last year we were there as a team, so we have a big jump on what we had just because of all the things we learned," he said. "It's really not a race, it's an event."
The team finished 10th overall at Le Mans last year in the field of 56 cars and were third in the LMP2 class.
One of the priorities on the 'to-do' list was to qualify Le Mans rookie Luis Diaz. The driver had to complete a minimum of 10 laps of the track, a task he approached with great enthusiasm.
"I've been preparing for this as much as I can using video games and studying as many things as possible but nothing really prepares you for the real thing until you get in the car," Diaz said. "It's a unique place – very fast and a lot of fun to drive but you can't afford to make any mistakes. I'm very happy with the car and we were very close to having the fastest car."
The team is remaining in France to prepare the No. 33 car for the next round of track action which starts on Wednesday. Before that time, official Administrative and Technical Scrutineering takes place in the centre of Le Mans in front of many thousands of enthusiastic fans.
An estimated crowd of 23,000 was present for the test day.
Other regular American Le Mans Series competitors who took part in testing were Corvette Racing, which will have its two Corvette C6 ZR1 cars in the GTE Pro class, along with Flying Lizard Motorsports, which has entries in the GTE Pro and GTE-Am classes.
The 80th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will begin on Saturday, June 16 at 10 a.m. from the 8-mile Le Mans street course in France, and end at 10 a.m. on Sunday. Official practice/qualifying takes place on Wednesday and Thursday.