Strakka Racing qualifying report

Strakka Racing Top of the Independents Making their debut at Le Mans, Strakka Racing was delighted to emerge as the top independent team in qualifying for the 77th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours. Fourth-fastest of the petrol-powered LMP1 ...

Strakka Racing Top of the Independents

Making their debut at Le Mans, Strakka Racing was delighted to emerge as the top independent team in qualifying for the 77th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours. Fourth-fastest of the petrol-powered LMP1 prototypes, Strakka's Ginetta-Zytek GZ09S set a best of 3:29.798 in the hands of Danny Watts, while co-drivers Peter Hardman and Nick Leventis each demonstrated strong race-pace and consistent support.

Danny Watts, Strakka Racing. Photo: David Lord / Dailysportscar "I'm not in the least bit disappointed to be the fourth petrol-powered car," said Watts after his qualifying attempt. "The car has been running really well, the power from the Zytek engine is good, and the Michelin tyres have been excellent throughout, and we're in great shape for the race. That's what really matters. While it might have been nice to start a little higher up the grid, qualifying isn't so important when you're facing twenty-four hours at Le Mans."

Danny Watts had just a single opportunity to set a quick time in the Strakka Ginetta-Zytek. Sent out at the end of the first period, he was under pressure to achieve a qualifying time in just three laps. "Danny's lap came out of nowhere," declared Team Principal Peter Hardman. "He hadn't tried for a quick lap up to that point, and we had no qualifying tyres. There was certainly no intention of being drawn into battle for pole -- the race is our priority -- but to be within two-tenths of what was then the fastest petrol time before the break was excellent."

"I was chuffed to bits to be petrol P2 at the end of the first two hours," admitted Danny. The team's intention of giving him another stab at the start of the second period failed to create the clear-track opportunity he needed. "I started the second session on new tyres, but the traffic was solid all the way round, and I had to abandon the run so that the others could get in their laps in the dark." Danny Watts achieved overall pole and out-paced the Lola Aston Martins in the opening round of this year's Le Mans Series at Barcelona, but time and luck conspired to deny him that honour at Le Mans.

"Danny did a fantastic job -- a really sterling effort - and his lap has put us close to where we should be," said co-driver Nick Leventis. "He was given a new set of boots and, bang, right on the button, straight away. It was his one shot at glory, and he delivered." Nick has driven at Le Mans many times before, in historic races, and last year in the DBR9, but never in a car quite like this one before. "It's certainly different, and very intense. I love it."

The Strakka Racing Team, Le Mans 2009. Photo: John Brooks The team encountered a minor electrical problem during Wednesday's free practice, and this curtailed the available tracktime for Peter Hardman and Nick Leventis. "It was frustrating to lose so much time on Wednesday," said Nick. "Out of six hours, we only managed a little over an hour's running, and that put us behind our planned schedule. Perhaps it was good to get the gremlins out of the way early, but it left us with a lot to do." All three drivers needed to complete their obligatory night-running laps as well as demonstrate a satisfactory qualifying pace. In a very disciplined demonstration, each driver completed his three-lap minimum requirement in sequence, and only when that had been successfully completed was Watts allowed to have his go at the qualifying lap.

"We needed to get a good feel for the car and the circuit, and we achieved that in the first session of Thursday," added Watts. "With that done, we could start playing with the set-up. We are all very comfortable in the car now, and as a trio we've got an excellent race pace. I'm sure that Nick, in particular, will simply get quicker and quicker as the race develops."

Peter Hardman, Strakka Racing. Photo: John Brooks While Strakka Racing concentrated on their own agenda, the Peugeot and Audi factory teams were staging a thrilling battle for outright pole. A stunning lap from Scot Allan McNish in the #1 Audi R15 TDI just moments before the end of the first period was eventually bettered by Stephane Sarrazin in the #8 Peugeot 908, after several determined attempts. The Frenchman thereby secured his third successive pole at Le Mans -- the first driver ever to do so - and in a French car. The race will commence at 15:00 (CET) tomorrow.

Aston Martin DBR1

The only disappointment for Strakka Racing so far has been the need to retire the Aston Martin DBR1 from Saturday's Legends race. Strakka's drivers are privileged to have access to the original Le Mans winning car from 1959, and Peter Hardman had been hoping to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the car's win with a strong performance in the main support race. Unfortunately, the car suffered a dropped valve during qualifying and has had to be withdrawn. It will also be unable to take part in the traditional Driver's Parade through the town centre on Friday evening, when Sir Stirling Moss was scheduled to drive the DBR1. However, the car will be on display all weekend at the Aston Martin hospitality overlooking the Ford Chicane.

-credit: strakka

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About this article
Series Le Mans
Drivers Allan McNish , Stéphane Sarrazin , Stirling Moss , Peter Hardman , Nick Leventis , Danny Watts
Teams Strakka Racing