Strakka Racing targets another giant-killing act in Japan

After winning the FIA World Endurance Championship for Privateers’ category and finishing 3rd overall in Bahrain, Strakka Racing is aiming to continue its giant-killing run with its Union Flag-flying Honda Performance Development ARX-03a at the 6 Hours of Fuji (October 14).

The team’s first race in Asia will mark another milestone in the history of the Silverstone-based team.

#21 Strakka Racing HPD ARX 03a Honda: Nick Leventis, Danny Watts, Jonny Kane
#21 Strakka Racing HPD ARX 03a Honda: Nick Leventis, Danny Watts, Jonny Kane

Photo by: xpb.cc

It will also be the first time that any of its all-British driving force, Nick Leventis (London), Danny Watts (Buckingham) and Jonny Kane (Thame), will have raced at the famous 2.83 mile (4.563km) Fuji International Speedway, although Karl Patman, Strakka Racing’s Assistant Team Manager and Crew Chief, has been able to give the team invaluable information based on many previous visits.

Karl was a regular visitor to Japan between 1988-91, working as a junior mechanic for Vern Schuppan Ltd. In his first job out of school, Karl spent a lot of time in Gotemba, a city located south east of Mount Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture, before the team moved to bigger premises in Narita.

There he worked on Porsche 962Cs in the Japanese Sportscar Championship, working with drivers such as Johnny Herbert, Rickard Rydell, Roland Ratzenberger, Eje Elgh, Bob Wollek, Gary Brabham, Dominic Dobson and Team owner Vern Schuppan.

Karl returned to Japan throughout the 90’s, to work as #1 mechanic on Thomas Bscher’s McLaren F1 GTR. This will be Karl’s first visit back to Japan for 14 years.

“It was an absolute privilege to visit Japan at such a young age and one that I’ll never forget,” said Karl. “I loved the country, culture and people, and I’m really looking forward to going back, especially Gotemba where I’ve spent so much time.”

Fuji International Speedway sits beneath Mount Fuji, an active volcano and Japan’s highest mountain, 62 miles (100kms) south west of Tokyo.

The circuit features the longest straight in the WEC outside Le Mans – a 1500 metre long start-finish straight which begins with an incline and drops down into Turn 1.

The remaining track layout is very technical, with tight and fast corners and off-camber bends that require high downforce, making a fast lap of Fuji a real engineering challenge between optimising straight line speed and minimising understeer and tyres wear in the middle sectors.

Competition for P1 Privateer points will be fierce in Japan, with Strakka competing against two cars from Rebellion, the JRM and a new entry from Oak Racing. The grid, including Audi and Toyota in P1, LMP2 and GT cars, will total 28.

Nick: “I’ve got limited knowledge of Japan, so I’m looking forward to visiting the country for the first time. It’s going to be a whole new experience for myself and Strakka Racing, and whilst none of our drivers have been to Fuji, our Assistant Team Manager has and our engineers have been working hard to find out all the information they can.

It’s going to be a tough race. We’re riding a lot of momentum after great performances and results on the last few rounds of the WEC and we feel that we’re right at home in LMP1 now.

One of our aims at the beginning of the season was to challenge for an overall podium and we ticked that box in Bahrain with third overall, so our confidence is high.

The fight for the Privateers’ title is still wide open. Rebellion leads, but we’re making them work hard for it and it’s going to be exciting going to Japan and taking the fight to Honda’s home round of the WEC.”

Danny: “I raced at Montegi for Honda Racing in the final round of the 2004 Japanese Formula 3 Championship and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.

I went back the following winter to do some testing in the Dome F3 car, and over one month I visited every race circuit except Fuji and Autopolis.

This will be my first visit to Fuji and I don’t know anything about it except the on-board videos I’ve seen and the work we’ve done on the sim.

I had some down time the last time I was in Japan to have a look around and I love the country, I love the people and it’s the one race on the WEC calendar that I’ve been looking forward to the most.

Japan is also the first place I ever experienced an earthquake. I was in the hotel reception in Montegi checking emails before the race meeting and everything began to shake.

The hotel staff were completely unfazed and didn’t seem to notice it at all, but I was thoroughly and utterly scared and it’s something I’ll never forget.”

Jonny: “I’ve never been to Japan before, but it’s always somewhere I’ve wanted to go. The Fuji International Speedway has a lot of history attached to it.

It’s got a very long start-finish straight and a combination of fast and slow corners after that, and I’m looking forward to seeing it in the flesh after watching some on-boards.

I’m confident we’ll prepare well – I’d never been to Bahrain before either and we all performed well and scored an excellent result.

In my book a circuit is only made up of other corners and normally you get to a track and a corner looks like one you’ve seen somewhere else, so you use the knowledge you’ve acquired to work out the best way to attack it.

We’ll travel to Fuji with as much data as possible, do our normal track walk and work hard in free practice to be well prepared for the start of the race. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Dan Walmsley, Strakka Racing’s Team Manager: “Japan is an important event for us, not just in terms of the Privateers’ championship, but because it’s the home of Honda, our engine and chassis partner, so therefore we want to put on a good performance for them and score a good result.

It’s going to be a challenge. The conditions can be quite humid, so once again we’ll have to consider not only the attrition rate of the race car, but the drivers too.

We’re on a crest of a wave at the moment and since Silverstone we’ve really unlocked the performance of the car and drivers. We may have left ourselves too much to do to win the Privateers’ title, but we’re going to do everything we can to take the fight to the final round in China.

We certainly want to finish the season as the strongest scoring Privateer, and we’ve got every chance of achieving that.”

The 6 Hours of Fuji begins with two 90-minute practice sessions on Friday 12 October (starting at 11.00 and 15.30). A final 60-minute practice session takes place on Saturday, beginning at 09.25, followed by a 20-minute qualifying session at 14.00.

It’s an early start on race day, Sunday 14 October, with a 20-minute warm-up at 07.55, before the start of the race at 11.00.

Source: Strakka Racing

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Tags fuji, honda, japan, kane, leventis, strakka, watts, wec

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