A consistent, solid run from the Honda Performance Development-equipped Strakka Racing brought the British-based team top honors in the LMP1 Privateer category and a sixth-overall finish at this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The Strakka driving trio of Jonny Kane, Nick Leventis and Danny Watts brought its Honda-powered HPD ARX-03c through a rain and accident-plagued event that saw a total of six hours contested under caution. Strakka battled a two-car effort from Rebellion Racing throughout the first 18 hours, overcoming minor mechanical issues, a puncture and brief off-course excursion to split the Toyota-powered Rebellion Lolas as daylight returned to the Circuit de la Sarthe.
When Andrea Belicchi crashed the #13 Rebellion Toyota-Lola with just under six hours remaining, Strakka moved into the privateer team lead, and would hold its advantage through two rain showers in the final hours to score the inaugural official class victory for private LMP1 teams. Only the full “works” manufacturer-entered teams from Audi and Toyota finished ahead.
The 90th running of the 24-hour racing classic was marred by a single-car crash in the opening hour that claimed the life of Danish racer Allan Simonsen, who was driving a GTE-category Aston Martin when he lost control and collided with the trackside barriers.
In LMP2, the largest class at Le Mans this year with 22 entries, the American-based Level 5 Motorsports HPD ARX-03b of Ryan Briscoe, Marino Franchitti and Scott Tucker battled a variety of issues that combined to blunt HPD’s attempt at a second-consecutive LMP2 victory at Le Mans, and third in the last four years.
Running third in class after three hours on the strength of a strong opening segment from Briscoe, a punctured tire befell Franchitti and cost the Level 5 team two laps with an unscheduled pit stop. Additional problems, including excessive crankcase pressure, resulted in more time lost as the race approached the 12-hour mark.
The ARX-03b was eventually taken into the garage for additional repairs. Although this marked the first in-race failure in the three-year history of the production-based Honda HR28TT twin-turbo V6 engine, the Level 5 team was able to resume running in the final hour for team owner/driver Tucker to finish on track.
This weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans also was the third round of the 2013 World Endurance Championship. The WEC now takes a two-month break before continuing September 1 with the 6 Hours of Sao Paulo, at the Interlagos circuit in Brazil.
Danny Watts (Strakka Racing HPD ARX-03a) finished 6th overall and 1st in the privateer category, first privateer win for Strakka in 2013: “It’s not really sunk in that I’ve been on the podium at Le Mans, because I’m so tired. I have to apologize to Jonny [Kane], because I missed his last race-finishing stint. I was asleep in the back of the truck! My side hurts a little, but I’m not so much physically whacked as mentally drained. It’s been a very emotional twenty-four hours with what happened to Allan Simonsen. I had to take the start from thirty-sixth on the grid, so there was a bit of pressure on me to stay out of trouble – which I managed to do. I went on and had a really good three-hour, forty-five minute stint which got us through all the GT and LMP2 cars. My second stint was at night and the car was consistent and fairly easy to drive. It’s great to win the LMP1 Privateers’ award, but what’s most important is that we get double points for the WEC. I think we can kick on from here, and really take the fight to the Rebellions.”
Art St. Cyr (President, Honda Performance Development) on the 90th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans: “A bit of a bittersweet day for us. Of course, we were very happy to see another solid effort from Strakka Racing finally rewarded, with their privateer LMP1 championship, and sixth-place overall finish. It was a wonderful result for a team that continues to impress with their consistency and excellent preparation. But we’re a little bit disappointed with our result in LMP2, where we were seeking our third class win since 2010. We had high hopes for the Level 5 team this weekend, but unfortunately the crankcase pressure issue prevented them from contending for the victory, but the team persevered and was back on track for the finish. Finally, our thoughts are with the family, associates and many friends of Allan Simonsen. While not a member of the HPD family, he was a racer, like everyone at HPD. His loss is a loss for us all.”