Strakka Racing Ready for La Sarthe Peter Hardman in the Strakka Racing Ginetta-Zytek. Photo: David Lord Strakka Racing completed a final shakedown test of the team's Ginetta-Zytek GZ09S LMP1 prototype at Snetterton today (Monday 1st June) ahead...
Strakka Racing Ready for La Sarthe
Peter Hardman in the Strakka Racing Ginetta-Zytek. Photo: David Lord Strakka Racing completed a final shakedown test of the team's Ginetta-Zytek GZ09S LMP1 prototype at Snetterton today (Monday 1st June) ahead of departure for France and this year's Le Mans 24 Hours. Team Principal Peter Hardman and Nick Leventis completed the morning test, which went without a hitch. They will be joined in Le Mans by Ginetta-Zytek works driver Danny Watts.
Last year Peter and Nick shared the Strakka Racing Aston Martin DBR9 GT1 in association with Vitaphone Racing, but this will be Strakka Racing's first Le Mans in its own right. "Our collaboration last year was very helpful, but this year our entry is exclusively our own, and we're looking forward to it enormously," says Peter Hardman. "The DBR9 was the perfect introduction, but would you go to Le Mans in an LMP1 car if you could? Of course, and especially in the Ginetta-Zytek. It's an awesome machine."
As well as co-driving the car, Peter Hardman is also Team Manager at Strakka. "It's a huge responsibility," he admits. "The team's performance is always going to be judged by the guy running it, but I'm going to be out there on the track, strapped into the cockpit for a lot of the time, so it's good to know that I have a strong crew to back me up. Over the past few months we've gathered together an excellent group of experienced, capable people, and I'm confident we're up to the task; we're very well prepared; and we have the perfect car for the job." The team has certainly made an impressive debut in the top prototype category, setting pole in the opening round of the Le Mans Series in Barcelona, and then demonstrating competitive pace and determination in Spa after a pitlane start.
Danny Watts for Strakka Racing, Spa. Photo: Marcus Potts For Danny Watts, there is a personal edge to his anticipation of this year's Le Mans 24 Hours. His father worked for TWR in the Group C era, and was on the pit wall when Jaguar won in 1988. "Everyone says it, but the Le Mans 24 Hours is the biggest race you'll ever do," says Danny. "It's such a massive event, but I'll still focus on treating it just like any other. My personal preparation won't change, although I'll approach the race itself a little differently. It's not another Le Mans Series six-hour, which is more like a sprint these days, and we certainly won't be pushing to the limit. Le Mans is such a very long and arduous race, and you've just got to keep going round at a sensible pace, making sure you don't make any mistakes, and looking after the car and tyres. You keep an eye out for variables, like rain and safety cars, but otherwise it's just a case of making sure you're still there at the end, aiming to finish as high up as possible."
Nick Leventis has matured impressively as a driver over the past two seasons, but still finds it hard to believe that he'll be driving an LMP1 prototype at Le Mans. "I'm very excited to be returning to Le Mans, but it means even more to me this year because it's our own team, and we're racing at the highest possible level and against the best in the world. It's a huge challenge, but one we're going to rise to. We have a great driver line up, competitive car and fantastic team behind us, and we're as well prepared as we possibly could be. Now it's time to knuckle down and make the most of this remarkable opportunity."
Having been a works driver for Ginetta-Zytek, Danny Watts has great confidence in the GZ09S. "There's no denying the speed of the car. We proved that in Barcelona," he said. "Then, at Spa, I caught and overtook one of the Peugeots, so I know the pace is there, but the Ginetta-Zytek also tends to be very reliable, and that's all you can ask for at Le Mans -- a fast , reliable car -- and I think we've got one."
Nick racing the 1959 Le Mans winning Aston Martin DBR1. Photo: Tim Scott, Fluid Images Strakka Racing Marks the 50th Anniversary
This year's event will have additional significance for Strakka Racing. It is exactly 50 years since Aston Martin won the 1959 Le Mans 24 Hours outright with an Aston Martin DBR1, and the team is fortunate in having the responsibility of racing that same car in historic events to this day. In last weekend's Silverstone AMOC St. John Horsfall meeting, Nick took another memorable win for the DBR1, but it will be Peter who heads out onto the Sarthe circuit on Saturday morning to participate in the Legends support race. "The Aston will also be taking part in the Driver's Parade on Friday evening," explained Peter. "It will be one of three cars from the Collection participating in the Legends race, including a Ferrari 206 and 246 Dino. It should be a very emotional occasion."
If 1959 was a 'classic year', then Peter believes 2009 could be another. "I think this is going to be a fabulous Le Mans 24 Hours, especially in LMP1," he says. "There's going to be such an intense battle for the overall lead between Audi, Peugeot and Aston Martin. We're under no illusion about where we stand in all this, and we'll be content to let the big boys fight it out while we follow on behind and, just maybe, pick up the pieces. There are 50 other cars on the track and we'll be doing our own thing, running our own race, and hope to be there at the flag when it matters."
The 77th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours begins with Free Practice on the evening of Wednesday 10th June, followed by Qualifying on Thursday between 7:00pm and midnight, with the race itself starting at 15:00 on Saturday June 13th.