Strakka Racing win makes LMP2 history at Le Mans

Photo Credit: Rick DoleThe final hours of the 78th Le Mans 24 Hours ran every gamut of emotion, from the abject despair of Peugeot, to the euphoric delight of those who won their classes. Strakka Racing is proud not only to have won LMP2 at the team’s first attempt, but to have done so in dominant style; leading from pole to finish; setting a new class lap record; completing the greatest distance ever covered by an LMP2 car; crossing the line in the highest position yet achieved in LMP2 (5th overall), and winning the Michelin Green X Challenge award for Le Mans 2010.

“This has been an unbelievable experience,” admitted Piers Phillips, the Team Manager at Strakka. “We ran from start to finish without a single incident - just one slow puncture on an in-lap. Everything else went exactly to plan. All three drivers rose to the challenge, and the lead that Jonny and Danny established was remarkable. The hardest part of the race was the tension of those last few hours. I want to thank everyone involved with the project: all the members of the team, HPD and Wirth Research for such a remarkable car, and Michelin. The tyres were extraordinary, and we could have triple-stinted every set.”

Nick Leventis
“I’m quite speechless. It’s almost unreal, and I think it’s going to take some time to sink in, but I’m really, really delighted,” said Nick Leventis. “This achievement is a credit to the team that Piers has worked so hard to put together, and a reward for all the months of hard work by everyone at Strakka Racing. From my own point of view, I hadn’t realised how much pressure there was going to be on me as the team owner. In the race, Jonny and Danny set a pace that just eclipsed everyone else, and put them all on the back foot. They created a cushion that kept us clear for the rest of the race, and made my own stints so much easier. I was able relax and concentrate on my driving.”

Danny Watts
“It’s great to win any race, but it’s absolutely fantastic to win here at Le Mans,” said Danny Watts. “We came here as underdogs, but after the performances at Paul Ricard and Spa, we knew the car would be strong, and we believed we were in for a shot. We established a benchmark for the class in practice and qualifying, but after Jonny put us in such a strong position during his opening stint we were able to set the pace all the way to the chequered flag. That put the pressure on the others to catch us. This result has put Strakka on the map in sportscar racing, and against the best in the world. It’s a fantastic achievement.”

Jonny Kane
“I was expecting David Brabham to be with me all the way at the start, but I was able to slipstream some of the P1 cars and that helped me pull away. Then I had a mega restart after the safety car and just pushed as hard as I could. The car was simply awesome. All the set-up and simulation work we’ve done really paid off, and that was the best balance we’ve ever had with the HPD. I’ve only finished here once before, last year, and now I’ve won it on my seventh attempt. It feels fantastic.”

The Team
“The dedication and effort that has gone into this whole project since the end of last year is hard to believe,” commented Piers. “The team has been so focused for the last six months, and they’ve delivered on so many levels. There’s not a single person that hasn’t worked hard enough to deserve this result, but it’s rare that you actually collect your reward. Michelin has also been a large part of that process, and their support has been phenomenal. Credit to the technicians as well, who worked so closely with us and helped ensure our clean sheet at scrutineering.”

“Strakka is here for the long term, and this win, as fantastic as it is, is not the peak of our ambitions,” added Piers. “It’s the platform from which we can move forward. We’ve proved a point, set a precedent, and raised expectations. We now have to go to Portugal for the next round of the Le Mans Series, get our heads down, and prove we can do this all over again.”

The race stayed with Strakka almost all the way from start to finish. Jonny Kane took the start at 3:00 on Saturday afternoon, and imposed his authority on LMP2 right from the moment the tricoleur dropped. David Brabham, taking first stint for Highcroft, couldn’t stay with the Ulsterman, and by the end of the first hour had fallen 13 seconds adrift.. That gap had grown to a full minute by the time Danny Watts took over at the two-hour mark.

Setting lap times that many P1 cars would have been pleased to match, Watts extended the lead in a consummate display of driving that created the luxury of enough lead-time to make pitstops and still retain position. A double-stint later and Nick Leventis made his first appearance in the cockpit, re-building the lead into a margin of nearly 70 seconds. That dissipated during an extended safety car period around 9:00pm, and when Nick handed back to Jonny Kane twenty minutes later, the Strakka HPD lost the lead for the first and only time.

Three laps later the class lead came back to Jonny on Highcroft’s next pitstop, and with eight hours of the race completed, the gap had grown to over two minutes. That became two-and-a-half as midnight approached, and time for Danny Watts to begin a triple-stint. Building on those foundations, Watts extended the lead from seconds and minutes into laps. When Nick Leventis completed his nighttime double-stint at four-thirty, he passed on a two-lap advantage to Jonny Kane for the dawn run.

As the sun rose over Le Mans, Kane passed the baton to Danny Watts, and the pole-setter instantly demonstrated his prowess with a new personal best and LMP2 lap record of 3:33.742. The two-lap lead grew to six when the Highcroft HPD encountered coolant problems, and Strakka Racing’s run to the flag then became a question of resolve and looking after the car. A final splash and dash and Danny Watts brought the Strakka Racing HPD home to win LMP2, fifth overall, having completed 367 laps - nearly 5002 kilometres. The #35 Oak Racing Pescarolo took second, and RML’s HPD-powered Lola finished third.

The team will be back in action again next month, when Round 3 of the 2010 Le Mans Series moves to the Algarve circuit near Portimão in Portugal.

-source: strakka racing 

« We lost the return match today | Main | FIVE PORSCHE FACTORY DRIVERS TOP PODIUM AT 78TH LE MANS »