Strakka Racing emerged as front-runners in LMP2 after a very successful Le Mans Series test at the Paul Ricard circuit at Le Castellet in southern France. With a brisk Alpine wind cutting across the track, conditions were hardly ideal, but the team's new HPD ARX-01c in the hands of Danny Watts, Nick Leventis and Jonny Kane set fastest time in three out of the five sessions, including Sunday evening's run through to midnight.
Strakka took part in a track test in Portugal last month, but the official ACO two-day meeting at the Paul Ricard HTTT on Sunday and Monday this week was the team's first opportunity to gauge how the car's performance measured up against the opposition. While the urge to read too much into times set under testing should be resisted, it was nevertheless very encouraging to run first or second in LMP2 each day.
"The test has gone perfectly for us," said a very satisfied Piers Phillips, team manager at Strakka. "We've been largely ignoring what others have been doing, and just getting on with the schedule of work we'd set ourselves, but even so, it has been gratifying to set some of the quickest times, especially as we're comparing our performance with some teams who've been developing their cars for a year or more. We're still learning so much every time the car goes out, and it's reassuring to know that there's even more still to come. It's a good position to be in."
The team took delivery of a new low-downforce aero-package in the days just before the test, which accounted for the plain black scheme of some body panels, but the results met with universal approval from all three drivers. "Most of our testing before today has been in the wet, and it's been our first run with the new package, but we've worked through the test without a hitch," said Nick Leventis. "Speed and stability is excellent, straight out of the box, and I'm delighted that we've emerged around the top of the P2 class at the end of it. We've established a fairly good idea of the likely pace, but it's important not to read too much into times set during testing," he said, before adding; "Everyone else will have more to give too, so we have to be realistic, but it's been a very positive two days."
Most of the set-up work was completed by Danny Watts. "We're very pleased with where we are, especially as we're still in the early stages of learning how to work with the car. It has been totally reliable and we've had no issues at all. The HPD engine and chassis combination is excellent, the tyres have been awesome, and the whole package is gelling together very nicely. What we need now is to return next month and make a good, solid start to the season, and get points on the board," he said.
Strakka Racing is now the only LMP2 runner on Michelin tyres, but it's a situation that meets with Piers Phillips' wholehearted approval. "The support we're experiencing from Michelin has been staggering. They've come up with a product that really suits the car, and I've been blown away by the technical expertise and commitment of their engineers, and the results we've been seeing on track," he said. "They complement the standard and competence of the team we've put together around the HPD ARX, which includes a strong commitment from HPD themselves. If we have any requirements in terms of the engine or the chassis, the HPD technicians react immediately. It's hard to put into words how much we appreciate their input and support. As team manager, it's comforting to know that we're perfectly positioned now to deal with anything that comes our way. We're as well prepared for the season now as we'll ever be, and we're all looking forward to returning here next month - hopefully, to some warmer weather!"
The 8 Hours of Le Castellet takes place on Sunday April 11th, starting at 11:00am.