Strakka Leads the Challenge in Algarve Danny Watts, Strakka Racing, Algarve 1000 Kms 2009. Photo: John Brooks For an hour and forty minutes Strakka Racing's Danny Watts fought with the best, battling through from fourth on the grid to challenge...
Strakka Leads the Challenge in Algarve
Danny Watts, Strakka Racing, Algarve 1000 Kms 2009. Photo: John Brooks For an hour and forty minutes Strakka Racing's Danny Watts fought with the best, battling through from fourth on the grid to challenge for the lead in Round 3 of the 2009 Le Mans Series. Staged at the new Algarve circuit in southern Portugal, the event was the first night race to be included in the LMS calendar. Just as the light was starting to fade across the circuit, so too did Strakka's hopes. A succession of niggling electrical faults combined to end the team's impressive run, but not before they'd demonstrated once again that the squad has the pace and potential to win.
During his opening stint Danny Watts not only kept pace with the three ahead of him, but steadily narrowed the gap, picking up third from Bruno Senna when the Brazilian made an unforced error and ran wide. That allowed Watts to chase down Stefan Mucke's Aston Martin Lola for second, but when Mucke moved through to the lead, Danny followed, and with forty minutes completed he was lying second. Tight behind, however, was Jean-Christophe Boullion in the #16 Pescarolo. "I was going for the lead," explained Danny, "when I got baulked by a back-marker, and Boullion simply had the better line and got a run on me. He overtook and there was nothing I could do, but it was a very exciting start to the race."
Danny Watts, Strakka Racing, Algarve 1000 Kms 2009. Photo: John Brooks Danny completed his opening stint in third, and pitted for fuel. His second stint was also going well, and he was solid in second when the first sign of trouble arose. "The car started to develop a misfire about ten laps before I was due to come in," said Danny. "I was able to push on to the scheduled stop, and handed over to Nick, but then the car wouldn't restart." The car was hauled back into the garage and various electrical components were checked and replaced. Nick Leventis headed back out but managed only a handful of additional laps before being forced back as the misfire worsened. Despite the dedication and hard work of the team's engineers, it was soon evident that the car was headed for retirement.
"It's very frustrating, but the positive to draw from this is that Danny demonstrated that we have the pace to run at the front," said Nick. "With the rate of attrition we witnessed in the early stages, combined with the kind of pace I'd been able to maintain in Free Practice, I think we'd have been well in the mix all the way. From the team's point of view, you simply can't fault the guys for effort and determination. It's just a shame we couldn't capitalise on that and gain the result they deserve, but we simply didn't have the reliability or the luck today. Even so, we've made great strides forwards in the last few weeks and demonstrated that we now have a team in place that can perform at the top end of this series."
Nick Leventis, Strakka Racing, Algarve 1000 Kms 2009. Photo: Peter May Piers Phillips, Chief Engineer and Team Manager, managed a wry smile. "We encountered a combination of electrical issues, including starter motor, but we won't be able to confirm the exact nature of the problem until we can get the car back to the workshop. After Danny made such a terrific start, it was particularly galling to retire with what were really very minor faults, but we're not here to make up the numbers, we're here to win. We have three weeks now to resolve this issue, and we'll be working hard with our partners at Zytek to ensure that we're back in the frame for the Nurburgring."
"I feel so sorry for the boys, but we're a strong, closely-knit unit, and we'll bounce back from this," said Danny Watts. The opportunity to prove that will come over the weekend of August 22nd-23rd when the Le Mans Series reaches Germany and Round 4; the Nurburgring 1000 Kilometres.
Highlights of the Algarve 1000 Kilometres will be broadcast on Eurosport 2 on Tuesday (18:30 UK time), Thursday (09:30), and Eurosport HD on Tuesday (23:30).