With a string of major endurance races under their belts already this season, including Le Mans 24 Hours and Spa 12 Hours, the team at Strakka Racing is now preparing for their final scheduled outing for the 2008 season, and it’s another twenty-four hour marathon. This time the race is a much closer to home, being their local Britcar 24 Hours at Silverstone, just a matter of yards from the team’s headquarters.
Strakka Racing’s regular driver pairing of Nick Leventis and Peter Hardman will be fielding the team’s ex-works BMW M3 GTR for the event, which takes place over the weekend of September 19th-20th. They will be joined by two very experienced drivers; Christian Vann, who last shared the BMW with Nick and Peter for the Spa 12 Hours in June, and Australia-based Dane Allan Simonsen, who will make his debut with Strakka.
The BMW was put through its paces last week during an extended test at Snetterton circuit in Norfolk. “We were trying out a new aerodynamic package, including a revised rear wing,” said Peter Hardman. “It was also an opportunity to run-in various components, including a new differential, driveshafts and gearbox. The car has undergone a full rebuild since Spa, and the Snetterton test was our last opportunity to get everything checked and ready for Silverstone.”
The BMW was also being used to gain data on new tyre compounds from suppliers Dunlop. “If the car is reliable, and there’s no reason to think it shouldn’t be – then I think we’ve got a really good chance in the Silverstone 24,” said Nick Leventis, who also has similar confidence in the driver line-up. “It’s a very strong squad - there’s not a great deal between Peter, Christian and myself, as we discovered at Spa, and I know Allan is right on the button, so I think we’ve got an excellent line-up.”
Christian Vann was a member of the Strakka squad for last year’s Silverstone 24 Hours. “Peter and Nick invited me to do this year’s event with them straight after the 2007 race,” said Christian, “and I was delighted to say yes. I think we have a great chance for a class win this year. Having driven the BMW for the Spa 12 Hours, when we lead the race, I know the car has tremendous potential.” He is also looking forward to renewing some acquaintances. “I always enjoy working with Strakka, and it will be good to work with [chief engineer] Paul Dunkley again, but I’ve never raced with Allan, although we’re very old friends. We were instructors together at PalmerSport for seven years and he’s one of my best mates. He’s at the top of his game at the moment.”
Peter Hardman is equally confident in Allan’s likely contribution. “I’ve been very impressed with the work he’s done in the last couple of seasons, and I’m sure that he’ll fit in perfectly. Although he’s not yet had chance to test the BMW, it’s a very forgiving car, and not as physical as the Aston he usually drives (in the FIA GT Championship), so I know a driver of Allan’s abilities will adapt with no trouble at all.”
Allan is racing in the FIA GT Championship (Brno) this weekend, but is looking forward to his return to Silverstone for the Britcar 24 Hours and driving with Strakka. "I've been enormously impressed with everything I've learned about Strakka and the very professional way they work. If the BMW goes half as well as it looks, we'll do very well! This will be my fourth 24 hour race of 2008, and I think we have an excellent chance at Silverstone. I'd like to think we can win, and I will certainly do my very best to help Strakka achieve that." There aren't many contemporary GT cars that Allan hasn't raced, and he's keen to add the BMW M3 GTR to that list. "I remember when the M3 was racing in ALMS, and I was impressed with the car then. Now I'm going to get the chance to race it, and that's just fantastic!"
At Spa the BMW retired with a cracked exhaust, and Strakka’s Le Mans run with Vitaphone Racing ended early with a failed propshaft, so the team is eager for a strong run at Silverstone. “We’d dearly love to end the year on high,” admits Peter. “It’s the last race of the season for the M3, and it would be perfect to round off the year with a good result.”