Strakka Racing Fourth in Tight Battle for GT1
Strakka Racing’s return to the 2008 Le Mans Series saw the team’s Aston Martin DBR9 complete a very competitive six-hour run to fourth place in the needle-match battle for GT1 honours. Aston Martin works driver Darren Turner joined the team’s regular pairing of Nick Leventis and Peter Hardman for the DBR9’s last race of the year. The two-times Le Mans winner brought his considerable experience of the car to the squad, and rewarded their faith by nearly claiming fastest GT1 lap of the race, missing out by a mere three-tenths of a second.
The team remains on a steep learning curve with the Aston Martin DBR9, yet continues to make great strides forwards with every run. Preparations for this weekend’s race were curtailed by poor weather, and this placed the squad at something of a disadvantage when ranged against teams that had competed in all the year’s previous rounds, but the car ran strongly throughout. “I felt a little disappointed at the end of the race,” conceded Nick Leventis, knowing that a podium had been a realistic prospect, “but all things considered, given our lack of knowledge and where we’ve come since (our last Le Mans Series race at) Spa, we’ve made a lot of progress. This is such a very competitive class, and yet we remained in contention all the way to the flag.”
Peter Hardman drove the opening stint, but had to begin the race on cold tyres. “I couldn’t lean on them at all, and it had seemed difficult to get any heat into them on the warm-up lap, so I lost twenty or so car lengths before we'd even crossed the line. I was playing catch-up from then on.” Despite this, Peter moved through to third during his second stint, and handed the car across to Nick for the middle period of the race. “Nick drove exceptionally well,” said Peter. “I think Silverstone is a much harder track to master than Spa, where we last raced the Aston, yet he coped brilliantly, particularly with the traffic.” The car only dropped back to fourth after falling foul of an awkward safety car situation, which cost the team a full lap to the title-winning Luc Alphand Corvette.
Darren Turner completed the final two stints to the chequered flag. “Having dropped the lap, the challenge then was just to get to the flag, and learn as much as we could about the car in race conditions. The Dunlop tyres are very new to me, and with the limited running we had prior to the race, it was always going to be difficult to get the best out of them, but the team made some good adjustments during the course of the race, and the balance just got better and better.” Towards the end of his stint, Darren posted a new fastest lap of 1:46.372 for the #61 Aston. “I was very pleased to set that time, and I think it reinforces the fact that we’d made great improvements to the car.”
“Everyone worked well together as a team,” said Peter afterwards. “Nick drove a strong race, and we learned a great amount from Darren. His pace was impressive. With a bit of luck we might have had a podium, which would have been a good end to the season, but we were in contention all the way. It’s excellent progress, and provides a good basis for us to move forwards into next season.”
Strakka Racing will be back at Silverstone next weekend for the Britcar Silverstone 24 Hours, while Darren Turner has his BTCC commitments to fulfil at Brands Hatch. He will then be heading to America for the ten-hour Petit le Mans race at Atlanta in three weeks’ time.