Strakka Racing could have secured a podium position in the Autosport 6 Hours of Silverstone today, had it not been for an avoidable collision on lap 16 of the race which caused substantial damage to its Honda Performance Development HPD ARX-01d. Throughout the race the Silverstone-based team demonstrated incredible defiance as it recorded the fastest tyre change in the pit lane and its three drivers, Nick Leventis, Danny Watts and Jonny Kane, consistently out-paced all other LMP2 cars on the track - to such an extent that it regained three full laps lost during repairs in the pits.
Starting from pole position, Jonny got Strakka Racing's home round of the Le Mans Series underway in the team's Michelin-shod HPD ARX-01d. Overtaken by Greaves Motorsport's Tom Kimber-Smith at the start, the 37-year old Thame-based Northern Irish driver kept the Zytek in his sights for 15 laps before making a stunning move on lap 16 to retake the lead. His glory was short lived however, as on the next lap, the Larbre Competition Corvette car turned in on him at Club Corner as he tried to overtake, causing a left rear puncture. With almost an entire lap's distance to the pits, the tyre blew causing considerable damage to the engine cover, suspension components and rear crash structure.
The team did a stellar job to get the Relentless Energy Drink-backed car back out on track as soon as possible, but the extent of the damage meant that 27 minutes were lost. Nick took the wheel and re-joined the race 14 laps down in 9th position. With five hours left, the team remained defiant as the 30-year old London based driver completed a faultless stint of 49 laps and one hour and 37 minutes in the car, setting some truly impressive lap times.
Danny was next out and given a free reign to push as hard as possible. This wasn't easy with a field of slower cars to plough through, but a unyielding attack over 54 laps and 1 hour and 37 minutes paid off as the 31-year old driver from Buckingham managed to move Strakka up to 8th, consistently lapping fastest LMP2.
With an hour and a half of the race remaining, Jonny took over the final charge and again set an awesome pace to the flag to bring the car home in 8th - scant reward for a faultless performance and incredible team effort all weekend.
Nick Leventis: "It's been a very frustrating weekend, but we've got a lot of positives to take away from it. A fantastic team effort during qualifying put us on pole and the race was looking good. Jonny did a good opening stint and we were running in first place, but it was just unfortunate that we ran into trouble with a back marker. It wasn't Jonny's fault and it cost us fourteen laps in the pits, which is frustrating as throughout the race our pace was well ahead of the rest of the field and we were looking good for a strong result and championship points. Our pit stops were exemplary, and we were once again the quickest out of everyone. Jonny was unfortunate enough to be caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time but his driving was faultless, as was Danny's and as was mine. Between us we managed to claw back three laps lost during repairs to the car, which had we been problem free, would have undoubtedly put us well ahead of the leading Zytek and brought home a win. The championship is still within our grasp. It may be further away now, but we're not going to give up until the end of the last race and we're looking forward to Estoril, a circuit we know well. Thanks to all our partners, HPD, Wirth Research and Michelin for all their hard work this weekend."
Jonny Kane: "It's a very frustrating day and unfortunately a split second has changed the entire race for us. The car was quick and reliable and if it hadn't been for that one incident I think we would have been on for a very strong result. The most annoying thing for me is that the Corvette that I had contact with blocked me two corners before, so he knew that I was there and trying to overtake. I'd overtaken people earlier in the race and all through the free practice sessions and warm-up and even last year at the same corner without any trouble at all. He obviously just didn't allow me any room or turned in to early and unfortunately gave me a puncture with an entire lap to do. Eventually the tyre let go and caused a fair bit of damage to the floor and the rear bodywork and it was a real uphill battle from then. The boys did an amazing job to get the car out as quickly as they did and we ran as quickly as we could, but unfortunately nobody else had any problems. It's been a lot of hard work from everybody and a few points which is some consolation, but it's not the result we wanted today."
Danny Watts: "Overall the result is disappointing but the car had pace which is the positive thing to take out of weekend and also we're still in with a mathematical chance of winning the championship at Estoril. My stint was great and I managed to stay out of trouble. I just went as fast as I could every single lap to try and get up the order a bit. Traffic was a bit of an issue but it's obviously the same for everyone. There are some competent drivers and incompetent drivers and you kind of know coming up to them what they're going to. I really enjoyed it actually, I had a lot of fun and saw a few big moments in front of me which was quite entertaining."
Piers Phillips, Team Principal and Technical Director: "What a day and what a weekend! It's been an absolutely fantastic performance from the team from the word go and after such a long lay off we've come to Silverstone and pretty much dominated. We realised pretty early on that we had a strong car and that followed through to qualifying which was an amazing effort by Dan Warmsley, our Chief Engineer, to call the weather and by Danny to drive the car in very tricky conditions to give us pole and our first championship point. Today it all looked good for forty minutes of so until we got hit by a back marker, which pretty much destroyed our race. But if you look at the fight back, the stints that the drivers did in the car, the work we did in the pits to repair the car and our pit stops, we were second to none. It'll be a long time until a team performs as well again as we've done this weekend and doesn't come away with a win. We now go to Estoril without any pressure and we'll as always give it all we've got."