Strakka Racing Drivers at the Le Mans Classic
Strakka Racing's Nick Leventis and Peter Hardman were back at Le Mans last weekend for a very different motorsport event from the 24 Hours they shared last month in the Vitaphone Aston Martin DBR9. This time they were taking part in the Le Mans Classic, co-driving historic racing cars around the full Le Mans circuit. The team's three cars included the Aston Martin DBR1 that took victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1959, a beautiful Ferrari 246S from 1960, and a 1966 Ferrari 330 P3.
Responsibility for qualifying fell to the former Classic winner Peter Hardman, who responded with pole for the #29 Aston Martin in the Group 3 grid (for cars dating from 1957-61) and then an impressive 11th for the Ferrari P3 in the Group 5 class (for those originally raced between 1966 and 72). Sadly, recurrent gearbox problems in practice lead to the eventual withdrawal of the Ferrari 246, although Nick still maintains it "was the most beautiful car on the grid!"
When it came to the races, Nick took first stint in the Aston Martin DBR1, starting from the pole set by Peter. "It was a fantastic race," he said, "but I couldn't hold on to Gary (Pearson) in the D-Type Jaguar. He just had so much power and left me standing!" Nick held his ground, battling on for third, and left Peter well placed to fight through to second at the flag. That determined their grid position for the second race. Soon after the start Nick "found 5th gear instead of 3rd by mistake" and lost a handful of places, but recovered much of that ground before handing over to Peter, who continued the good work. He'd regained fourth place by the close, and the gap to the winning Jaguar D-Type was just 46 seconds. The final run for the Aston came at 10:40 on the Sunday morning, with Nick once again driving first stint. "I'd been looking forward to a good result, but I spun just after the Dunlop Bridge. It was entirely my own fault." He slipped to 21st, but by the end of his four-lap stint he'd recovered impressively to sixth. Peter then took over the car for the second stint and pushed hard in the final laps to finish fifth.
The team's first race in the Group 5 Ferrari 330 P3 came late on Saturday evening. "The start went really well," said Peter. "I went quicker in the first two laps than I had in qualifying, and managed to battle through to 5th from 11th, but then I began to experience problems with the brakes." It was a situation that grew steadily worse, and Nick was forced to drive very conservatively throughout his second-stint. Despite this, he crossed the line in a competitive tenth place.
The P3's second race came at dawn on Sunday morning, and Peter took the 45 minutes solo. Starting from 8th, based upon his fastest lap from Race One, he battled hard to take the flag in fourth, but with one of the other competitors penalised for a hasty pitstop, the Ferrari P3 was reclassified third. In the car's final race, Peter ran fifth before a noise from the back heralded a problem with the P3's differential, and after three laps Peter parked up.
"The Aston did a great job to last all three races," said Peter in admiration for the fifty-year-old DBR1. "The chicanes and tight corners are very tough on those old cars. The only disappointment was not being able to get the best out of the 246, but overall it was a very successful weekend." Nick thoroughly enjoyed the experience. "I absolutely loved it, and it's such a privilege to drive cars like these around the Le Mans circuit."
The team has a few days rest before heading off to Italy for the next round of the Peroni Endurance Touring Car Championship at Misano, where Nick and Peter will be competing in the team's BMW M3 GTR.
-credit: strakka racing