Sunday, December 4, 2011

Level 5 Dream Team and Owner Scott Tucker take on the Infineon Challenge

By Katherine Waters

Scott Tucker is certainly the best race car driver, but if you add the fact that he competes not just in the ALMS and the ILMS but also the Ferrari Challenge series, Tucker becomes a fantastic race car driver-unbelievable not simply due to the schedule he keeps, but due to his continual success on the track. The first FC race of the 2011 year for Tucker and his Level 5 Motorsports team was the debut of the Ferrari 458 Challenge-the 5th model to be utilized since the series began during the early 90s-at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

The 458 model was a newcomer to the race, but Tucker as well as car were old friends. He tested the automobile exclusively in Spain the previous fall and again at the 12 Hours of Sebring weekend in the spring of 2011. The Ferrari 458 model is lighter and faster compared with its Italia 458 counterpart. The vehicle boasts 570 horsepower; 9,000 RPM direct injection V8 engine, and its gearbox is modified to boost torque at lower revolutions. The car is also equipped with a top-quality traction control system that was produced by Ferrari. The system is based on logic and methods from Ferrari's experience in the Formula One series.

Tucker entered this year's FC season with four wins on the Infineon course, which covers approximately 2.5 miles with 12 turns. Overall, the Level 5 team fared well in the weekend's set of FC races. "We came out with two cars, but because we were trying a new product with a new seat, it caused some issues with technical people here, so we pulled out one car," said team manager David Stone. "The car we were able to run didn't get the new gearbox update, so we've been tentative about that."

But a race car is as good as the sum of all its parts-and one of those parts is the driver. Tucker started the first race in fifth place. After a little contact around the first corner, he bunkered down and worked his way up the rankings. His smart driving earned Level 5 a first-place ranking. "We extremely happy we got the win here with our 458 car," said one engineer.

"I was trying to get up as fast as I could without making contact or being too aggressive," said Tucker. "We had a good car, and fortunately it worked out for us in the end."

Another of the FC pair wasn't as seamless as its predecessor; Level 5 decided not to qualify because of a first-lap penalty the day before. "We have a double whammy where we started in the back and we had another penalty," Stone said. "Scott will have his work cut out for him. Getting on the podium is a tall order on this track."

Besides the penalties and race placement, Tucker and the Level 5 team had to face the challenge of a shorter race-the clock ran approximately 10 minutes short in 2011 compared to previous years. "There will be a little less time to work toward the front, but it is what it is, and the goal will be to come out of here with as many points as we can," Stone said.

Tucker delivered an outstanding performance regardless of the hiccups, weaving through traffic efficiently with the front of the line his unwavering goal. Even so the 458 car started last, Tucker brought it across the line sixth, no small feat considering the circumstances. "It was a good race; we started last and finished sixth with no damage to the car," Tucker said. "It's about as good as you can do."

With a solid performance again in May at the first FC series race of the year, Tucker continued on his whirlwind race schedule with an ILMC stop in Belgium for the Spa.

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