Strakka Racing ended its P2 programme on a high by securing second position in both the 2011 Le Mans Series and the Michelin Green X Challenge. The final race of the season, the 6 Hours of Estoril, typified what a turbulent season the Silverstone-based team has endured. Despite drivers Nick Leventis, Jonny Kane and Danny Watts driving faultlessly, a race win in the Honda Performance Development HPD-ARX 01d wasn't to be, as a sump pump belt came off (owing to a build up of rubber debris from the track), which forced the car into the pits for repairs. Having dropped down the order, the team battled just as hard for 6th place as it had been racing for the lead - and its team spirit and tenacity was rewarded with just that; and the Michelin Green X Challenge winner's trophy on the day.
After two successful seasons in LMS, Strakka Racing now turns its attention to the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship, in which it will race a brand new HPD-ARX 03a.
Jonny started Strakka Racing's last LMS race at the Autódromo do Estoril and made an excellent getaway from second on the grid to overtake the Greaves Motorsport Zytek of Olivier Lombard on the first lap. Leading for 8 laps before Lombard retook the lead, Jonny continued to lap consistently quicker than the rest of the P2 field, bar Lombard, until he came in the pits to hand over to Nick after 57 minutes.
When Nick jumped into the car his seat rotated, snagging his belts. He managed a stint of 18 laps and 28 minutes before coming into the pits earlier than planned, as his seat had become increasingly uncomfortable and impossible to drive with.
Forced to re-assess its race strategy, the team sent Danny out for a longer than originally planned stint, and he pushed hard to move the Relentless Energy Drinks back car up to sixth before handing back to Nick once again.
By now, the Portuguese track had a lot of tyre debris on it, and some of this was building inside the engine bay. Some had attached itself to the sump pump belt, which then came off. With smoke billowing out of the exhausts, Nick came into the pits after 23 laps, where the team quickly found the problem and send him back out again - albeit with the loss of 11 laps.
Danny gave the HPD-ARX 01d its swansong in the final hour of the race, and pushed as hard as possible to close in on sixth place. Fighting for position until the chequered flag, the result saw Strakka Racing finish second in LMS for a second consecutive year - an extraordinary achievement, considering how different the two seasons have been.
Nick Leventis: "My first stint was cut short because my belts got caught under my seat, and the car was increasingly impossible to drive like that. Then on my next stint the sump pump belt came off and I had to come into the garage. As always, the guys in the team did a fantastic job and pulled everything together and I was able to get back out on track and have a really good final stint. I was one of the quickest out there and really enjoying myself. The pace in the car was there today, which is amazing considering where we were at the start of the season. To finish second in the championship is a great result - it almost feels better than it did finishing second last year because of what we've been through. Last year we knew we had a quick car, but this year we've been severely disadvantaged performance-wise all season by issues beyond our control, yet even down to the last round we were fighting for the championship. I'm tremendously proud of what everyone's achieved this year and it's a fantastic platform on which to build and progress in P1 in the FIA World Endurance Championship next year."
Jonny Kane: "I had a really good start and through turns two and three I made a move up the inside of the Greaves Motorsport car to take the lead. For about ten laps the gap seemed pretty stable and I thought that we were going to be in with a really good result. Then my tyres started to go off a little bit and I caught a GT car in just the wrong place on the circuit, coming on to the main start/finish straight, and the Zytek got a really good run on me and managed to get in front. We were still looking strong but then we had a problem with the belt coming off the oil pump. Thankfully we managed to spot it on the telemetry and bring the car in quickly to get it changed, which probably saved our second position in the championship. Yet again our ‘never say die' attitude won through in the end. It wasn't the result we wanted as far as a race finish is concerned, but considering the pace of some of the other cars that have run against us this year I think the team has done an outstanding job to finish second."
Danny Watts: "My first stint was fine and I had no issues. Tyre management was obviously very important so I looked after my tyres early on and they were good for me later. Then during my second hour stint we were obviously playing catch up and I pushed really hard from the word go and the car felt really good. I just drove every lap like it was a qualifying lap and it was great fun. Strakka's got such a brilliant team spirit, we've all have a lot of fun this year but we've also worked really hard. Second in the championship is a great result."
Piers Phillips, Team Principal and Technical Director: "We've not had an easy LMS race this year and we've had to work extremely hard as a team to score the points we have. The final race at Estoril was no exception. As a team, we never give up - not even when we saw the car coming from a good race position and down the pit lane with smoke billowing out of the back of it, it was all credit to the technicians for repairing the car and getting it back out on track so quickly. There was a championship position to fight for and we were determined to secure second place in the P2 standings, plus we wanted to win the Michelin Green X Challenge. Our three drivers had a tough day, but Nick, Jonny and Danny all performed exceptionally well. One of the proudest moments of this season was seeing Nick race today and pass cars that are quicker than ours and drivers who are far more experienced. For Nick, who puts so much effort and energy into this team, it was nice to see all his hard work this year being rewarded."