Strakka Racing could have set the 2nd fastest time in qualifying for tomorrow’s opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the 6 Hours of Silverstone – but after posting just two of the required four laps, the local team will start the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship from the back of the grid.
However, a new WEC qualifying format requires two drivers to set a minimum of two flying laps each, with grid positions determined by calculating the aggregate time of the fastest four laps.
Strakka Racing lost time by starting the 20-minute qualifying session on slick Michelin tyres, spinning off the dampening track and coming into the pits for repairs. After Danny set his best times on intermediate tyres, time ran out for Jonny Kane to set a timed lap around the 3.66 mile (5.89km) Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit; the penalty for not posting four qualifying lap times demoting the Silverstone-based team to the back of the grid.
With dry conditions forecast for race day tomorrow, the fast pace of the team’s Relentless Energy Drinks-supported LMP1 car leaves Strakka Racing optimistic that it can fight its way through the field – and it promises to take no prisoners in overtaking GT and LMP2 cars the early stages of the race, as it attempts to regain lost time and catch its LMP1 Privateer rivals.
Prior to qualifying, Strakka Racing’s preparations with its new HPD ARX-03c for tomorrow’s 6 Hours of Silverstone had been encouraging, despite very cold and slippery track conditions during all three free practice sessions.
Having set a 2:00.123 best in FP1, Strakka Racing then set a magnificent 1:45.287 (1st LMP1 Privateer and 4th quickest overall) in FP2 – almost a second quicker than its qualifying time at Silverstone last year (1:46.160). This morning’s FP3 was run in very cold and damp conditions, with a 1:52.761 best recorded.
Jonny Kane: “We’ve had a very tricky qualifying session, where the weather changed in a short period of time. We started off on the wrong tyre and Danny got caught out on a gear change, which is very easy to happen. I had a lot of very close calls this morning in free practice in exactly the same conditions.
Being on the wrong tyre, spinning off and having to change the front bodywork cost us time – and although Danny did a very good lap time on intermediate tyres, we were running out of time.
By the time I’d completed my out lap on slicks the chequered flag was out, so I didn’t post a representative time. We’re starting our home 6 Hours of Silverstone race from the back of the grid, but we just have to get stuck in and do the best we can.”
Danny Watts: “We had a downpour of rain before the start of qualifying and it was difficult to judge how damp and slippery the circuit was, so we decided to go out on slicks. As soon as I got to the first corner I knew it was the wrong choice.
But we know from experience that it can dry very quickly at Silverstone and sometimes it’s better to carry on and wait for the track to come to you. But that wasn’t the case today.
I’d come out of Copse Corner and was gently accelerating in a straight line, at just sixty or seventy per cent throttle, but when I changed up from third to fourth gear the rear wheels lost grip and I was just a passenger.
It caught me completely by surprise; I’ve never had that happen before. I hit the wall side on and luckily only had bodywork damage. I was able to come into the pits, put intermediate tyres on, register a couple of quick laps and bring the car back for Jonny to take over. Unfortunately, we just ran out of time.”
Nick Leventis: “It’s been a tricky weekend so far. Conditions have been interchangeable, so it’s been very difficult to get a consistent direction in which to go. The race itself is forecast to be dry, so from that perspective we are confident we have a good car to go racing with.
I think we have a lot of work to do internally, because this being the first race of the season, and our home race, we can definitely step our game up. But we’ve been in this position many times before, where things haven’t quite gone so well in the lead up to a race, but then things change for the better on race day.
At the moment I’m a little bit disappointed with the way things have gone, but as ever I believe Strakka will bounce back and put in a great performance tomorrow.”
Dan Walmsley, Strakka Racing Team Manager: “We wanted to start the WEC campaign strongly, but we haven’t had much luck. Free Practice didn’t allow us to try all the testing options we brought with us, but in the brief dry running we have done we’ve seen that the pace of the car is incredibly good, so we’re very encouraged by that.
Like most, we went with slicks at the start of qualifying to post an early fast time, but Danny had a spin on his first timed lap and had to pit for repairs. After those delays, it wasn’t possible for us to record the four required qualifying lap times.
However, if we look at the average times posted, we are second fastest of all cars – but unfortunately we only recorded two lap times, demoting us to the back of the grid. We’re going to lose time early in the race overtaking the GT and LMP2 cars, but we’re going to do that as aggressively as we can.
We have to take chances in the first hour of the race, in order for us to push hard and try to catch Rebellion in the remaining five hours. We know our car’s quick, we’ve got great drivers, a great team spirit and we’re all focused on turning a disappointing day at the office today into a great fight-back tomorrow.”