Strakka Racing is on provisional LMP2 pole at the Le Mans 24 hours, after Jonny Kane recorded an unbeaten 3:42.615 just before half way through the two-hour first qualifying session. Unfortunately, just before qualifying ended at midnight, Nick Leventis crashed the twin turbo V6 engined HPD ARX-01d heavily at Turn 1.
Despite being delayed by traffic at the Porsche Curves, Jonny's provisional pole time was 0.509 quicker than Strakka Racing's nearest rival, the #28 Signatech Nissan. The qualifying time was also 0.248 faster than he'd achieved in the earlier Free Practice session, in which Strakka Racing also finished on top of the LMP2 timesheets (0.432secs ahead of the #48 Team Oreca Matmut car).
After all three drivers - Jonny, Nick and Danny Watts - successfully completed the minimum three laps that they need to do at night to qualify themselves for the race, the team focused on lap times.
Jonny set the early pace, gradually reducing the times around the 8.468 miles (13.629kms) Circuit La Sarthe in the Relentless Energy Drink and The Sun backed car, despite losing time in traffic. Danny, who qualified the car on LMP2 pole last year at Le Mans, could not better the time.
Nick took over for the final 20 minutes of the session and was driving brilliantly and setting consistently fast lap times. On his very last flying lap, he spun the car at the 121mph (196kph) Turn 1 and went into the tyre barrier on the inside of the track backwards. Nick was shaken and taken to the medical centre as a precaution, as the team knuckled down to begin to repair the badly damaged car.
The second qualifying session starts at 19.00 on Thursday.
Jonny: "The track has been getting better and better all day as the cars put more and more rubber down, and our car has felt very good. It was a bit darker in qualifying tonight than we'd have ideally liked to put in a good lap, but it still worked out okay. I got traffic on just about every lap, although the last one wasn't too bad. I could have gone a bit faster, but we have a car that we can drive all race. The Le Mans aero package has helped our straight line speed and it feels pretty stable."
Danny: "The pace of the car is good, the balance is nice to drive and I think we can improve the car a bit more. The car was good during the day, but it was also really good at night, which is important because you spend a fair amount of time running in the cold night air. Jonny's lap was absolutely fantastic; very clean and very tidy. I got a decent amount of laps in today, just dialling myself back into the circuit, and I really enjoyed it."
Piers Phillips, Team Principal and Technical Director: "Anyone involved in professional motorsport knows that there are highs and lows, and we've experienced them both today. We didn't do the Le Mans test earlier in the year, but we've still been P1 all day today. That's all credit to the extremely hard work we've done behind the scenes with Wirth Research and HPD, to make the car work so well against rival cars that have significantly more horsepower. The lap times Jonny has put have been outstanding - both in free practice when the track was still bedding in and the ones late in qualifying when the light was fading. Unfortunately we've suffered a big accident and we have an awful lot of work ahead of us to repair the car, but you couldn't wish for a more professional, skilled and dedicated bunch of guys in the pit garage to get our Le Mans challenge back on track."
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