Strakka Racing continues to impress in its first year of LMP1 competition with Honda Performance Development, as the driving trio of Jonny Kane, Nick Leventis and Danny Watts finished seventh Saturday to lead the HPD effort at the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, second round in the 2012 World Endurance Championship.
After qualifying sixth, starting driver Kane moved up to fifth overall – and first in the “privateer” order for non-manufacturer works entries – as Strakka’s HPD ARX-03a ran in a high-downforce configuration that paid dividends during the wet opening hours of the contest.
But when the forecast afternoon showers failed to materialize and the circuit dried mid-race, the Strakka trio lost its setup advantage. Kane, Watts and Leventis continued to battle for privateer honors with the Pescarolo Racing Dome Judd, and a pair of Lolas run by Rebellion Racing throughout the contest. At the finish, Strakka cross the line seventh overall, and third in the privateer category.
JRM Racing, fielding a second HPD ARX-03a, overcame a spin and contact with the crash barrier on the formation lap to finish 12th overall and fourth in the privateer category.
After the glancing contact, starting driver Karun Chandhok was able to pilot his HPD back to the JRM pits, where repairs were quickly completed. But series regulations required the team to take the start from pit lane, one lap down. An hour into the contest, contact with a slower GT car in the “bus stop” chicane resulted in another unscheduled stop for repairs, dropping the JRM squad to 21st overall.
As the 4.35-mile long Spa circuit began to dry, co-drivers David Brabham and Peter Dumbreck combined to claw back some of the ground lost as a result of the early incidents. Brabham had the HPD up to 15th overall at the three-hour mark, with Dumbreck making up additional ground in the final hours to finish eighth in LMP1.
In LMP2, it was a difficult race for the Sebring-winning, US-based Starworks team. Starting driver Enzo Potolicchio lost time with an off-course excursion – the result of possible contact from an LMP1 Audi prototype – in the opening hour. Additional repairs, to replace the engine drive belts, cost the Starworks HPD ARX-03b more than 20 laps, leaving co-drivers Ryan Dalziel and Stephane Sarrazin unable to make up much ground. The trio took the checkers 12th in the large LMP2 field.
The World Endurance Championship continues with next month’s signature event: the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where all three HPD-equipped WEC teams, plus the American Le Mans Series LMP2 effort of Level 5 Motorsports, are scheduled to compete. The North American-based American Le Mans Series resumes next weekend with the May 13 race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Jonny Kane (#21 Strakka Racing HPD ARX-03a) Started 6th, Finished 7th: \"The start was tricky, really wet with a lot of spray. It was difficult to see until it all began to settle down after a couple of laps. The car felt good in the wet and I overtook a Rebellion [Lola-Toyota] and was able to run behind the Audis quite comfortably. We were putting in some good lap times, despite having to look after the wet tires from very early on. We were very competitive with all the other ‘petrol’ cars and finished third privateer, so it was a pretty good day’s work, really.”
Roger Griffiths (Technical Director, Honda Performance Development) on this weekend’s 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps: “It was a race of mixed fortunes for HPD. Well-deserved congratulations to the Strakka team for a solid seventh place; the team didn’t put a wheel wrong all race. They were particularly unfortunate during the caution periods, losing ground to the Audis due to the timing of the yellows. Despite this, they maintain a strong position in the privateer teams’ championship. JRM was extremely unlucky coming the grid, the slippery conditions caught out Karun [Chandhok] and – just as at Sebring in March – they had to start from the pit lane.
“We were hoping for a repeat of the Sebring victory in P2, but unfortunately an early race spin put the team out of contention. Stephane [Sarazzin] was able to display the potential of the HPD car, running very competitive lap times during his stint. In just a month’s time we will be back in Europe, this time for Le Mans, a race that HPD has achieved significant success in the past. Our Le Mans development is very encouraging for both cars and we are optimistic of success there.”