Portimao: Strakka Racing qualifying report

Second Row Start for Strakka in Algarve 1000 Kms Danny Watts, Strakka Racing. Algarve Qualifying. Photo: David Lord, Dailysportscar Strakka Racing's Ginetta-Zytek GZ09S will start from fourth on the grid for this evening's first-ever Le Mans ...

Second Row Start for Strakka in Algarve 1000 Kms

Danny Watts, Strakka Racing. Algarve Qualifying. Photo: David Lord, Dailysportscar Strakka Racing's Ginetta-Zytek GZ09S will start from fourth on the grid for this evening's first-ever Le Mans Series "night race" at the Autodromo do Algarve in southern Portugal. Although Danny Watts had been quickest outright in two out of the three Free Practice sessions, the team's Chief Engineer and Team Manager Piers Phillips wasn't overly surprised when the former Formula Renault and A1GP winner couldn't repeat that in qualifying.

"We concentrated on perfecting our set-up for the race," explained Piers. "The fluctuations in track and air temperature over the last couple of days risked sending us down a few blind alleys, but we stuck to our guns and aimed at establishing a balance that we felt would suit us best for the race. We realised that might not be perfect for qualifying, but we're now confident that we have a great car with an excellent set-up, and while I have to admit to being just a tad disappointed to have missed pole, I believe we're a stronger position for six hours of racing.

Having been fastest in both the first two practice sessions, when track conditions were closer to those predicted for Saturday's race, a sense of buoyant enthusiasm pervades the team. "We can feel really positive that we've achieved a car that's well set-up, and qualifying is such a very small part of a 1000 kilometre endurance race," said Danny Watts. "Yes, it's nice to be on pole, but what is much more important is that we have a car that's easy to drive, competitive, and has the capacity to improve performance as the temperature drops. It's a reassuring position to be in."

Nick Leventis, Strakka Racing. Algarve Practice. Photo: David Lord, Dailysportscar Co-driving the Ginetta-Zytek is Nick Leventis. The two drivers tested at the Algarve track in February and have an excellent understanding of the circuit, but like everyone else, appreciate that conditions for a night race will be very different. "It's going to be a particular challenge at a track where negotiating traffic was always going to be an issue," suggests Nick. "The blind crests and corners will be even more interesting when you add in the reduced visibility of racing in the dark. Even so, from our experiences last night, in the late practice session, it may not be as bad as we'd thought. The major concern may be how others deal with it."

"There was a point when I encountered three spinners in just a few minutes," said Danny after completing his qualifying run, "If that's an indication of what we might have to expect for the race, then I think there may be a lot of incidents and potential for several safety car periods. If we can stay out of trouble, and cope with that, then we're in with a chance for some valuable points for the championship and, just possibly, a podium."

Danny Watts, Strakka Racing. Algarve Practice. Photo: Marcus Potts / CMC Racing at night, when track temperatures fall to 20 degrees or less, but testing largely during the day when the surface exceeds 50 degrees, has certainly thrown up its own set of challenges. "It hasn't been the easiest race to prepare for," concedes Nick. "The conditions today (Friday) were so completely different from those we encountered on Thursday, and are likely to be just as different again for the race tomorrow. Much of the data we collected during the heat of the day will be of no relevance to the race, but we're both happy with the car, and Danny drove a tremendous lap to be just four-tenths off pole." Pole for tonight's race fell to Nicolas Lapierre in the Oreca AIM #11, with Stefan Mucke's Aston Martin Lola second and Bruno Senna in the second Oreca claiming third. "At fourth, we're still the fastest of the independent, privateer teams, and in this company, that's something to be proud of," added Nick.

Attendance for the race, which runs from 19:15 through to 01:15, is expected to be good, and the sight of 35 sports and GT cars tackling the dips, dives and switchback bends of the new circuit is likely to create a very special atmosphere. The start, first hour and final 90 minutes of the race will be broadcast live on Eurosport.

-credit: strakka racing

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About this article
Series European Le Mans
Drivers Nicolas Lapierre , Bruno Senna , Stefan Mücke , Nick Leventis , Danny Watts
Teams Strakka Racing