Silverstone-based Strakka Racing has confirmed an agreement with Ginetta-Zytek that will see the team competing in the Le Mans Series this season with a Ginetta-Zytek GZ09S LMP1 chassis. The deal came about following a very successful track test in Spain towards the end of November, and means that Strakka’s regular driver pairing of Peter Hardman and Nick Leventis will be moving up into the top level of sportscar and endurance racing.
Peter Hardman's EDM Motorsport, formed at the end of 2005, evolved into Strakka Racing in 2007. Last season Strakka Racing came to prominence as a result of strong runs in the Le Mans 24 Hours - in collaboration with Vitaphone Racing - and in selected rounds of the Le Mans Series. For the past four years Peter has not only managed and directed the team, but has also mentored his protégé Nick Leventis, forging the relationship into strong driving partnership that combines experience and talent.
Strakka contested GT1 in the Spa and Silverstone rounds of the 2008 Le Mans Series with their Aston Martin DBR9, but the move into prototypes had not been widely anticipated. “We were always going to get there in the end, this is just a bit earlier than originally planned,” suggests Peter Hardman. “There were certain elements associated with running another season in GT1 that needed to come together, and that prospect was looking increasingly unlikely. We decided to check out other options, and while the elements we required for GT1 proved elusive, they gelled very neatly for an LMP1 project.”
“From where we were four years ago, this is a huge step, and if someone had asked me then if we’d be racing in LMP1 now, I’d have laughed at them!” continues Hardman. “But we were already geared up for the Le Mans Series and Le Mans 24 Hours in 2009, and this merely represents a change of car. From a team and logistics point of view, it makes little difference. Whatever level we run at, my philosophy is that we should always aim to operate to the best possible standards, so those will remain exactly the same – very high!”
Peter Hardman and Nick Leventis tested the GZ09S at Valencia in October, and were immediately impressed. “Having started to look towards running a prototype in 2009, our initial thoughts had been focused on LMP2, and we had spoken to a number of manufacturers, including Porsche,” admits Peter Hardman. “As part of that process I invited Ginetta-Zytek to join us in Valencia, where we were already booked to test the Aston. They had no LMP2 car available, but offered to bring along an LMP1 chassis instead.”
After just thirty laps of the track, the Strakka drivers were convinced. “I couldn’t believe how easy the Zytek was to drive,” said Nick Leventis. “Despite having never sat in a car like that before, I was on the pace almost straight away, and the first impressions were enormously encouraging. I appreciate that it’s a big step up for me personally, but after that test, and combined with the support we anticipate from Ginetta-Zytek, I’m relishing the challenge ahead. This car’s demonstrated huge potential already and obviously has a great deal more to offer.”
The deal with Ginetta-Zytek includes a comprehensive support package and close liaison between team and factory. “We may be a relatively new team,” concedes Hardman, “but we’ve already demonstrated that we aim high, and have the drive and determination to succeed. Everyone at Ginetta-Zytek have been enthusiastic and helpful throughout, and that made this a much easier decision to make.”
“This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the LMP1 version of the Ginetta-Zytek 09S,” said Zytek Engineering operations director John Manchester. “With our all-new 4.5-litre engine, the car demonstrated race-wining potential at Petit Le Mans last year. We feel that we have an extremely strong package, which Strakka Racing will be able to demonstrate in Europe. We are now very much looking forward to working with a highly professional racing team and to fulfilling the great promise that lies ahead of us this season.”
The only regret facing Strakka is that they will not be racing their Aston Martin DBR9 at Le Mans in June. “It is exactly fifty years since Aston Martin first won the 24 Hours outright,” explains Peter Hardman. “The car that achieved that victory is the same DBR1 that Nick and I still race in classic events. We were keen to run the DBR9 again in 2009 for that reason, so I am disappointed, but let’s face it, P1 is the pinnacle of our sport, and we’ll be competing against the likes of Peugeot, Audi and, perhaps, Aston Martin themselves. It’s also not impossible to consider that we can win a race or two, even within that kind of company.”
Strakka Racing is currently in discussion with a third professional driver for the Le Mans Series and, pending a confirmed entry, the Le Mans 24 Hours. Details should be announced within the next fortnight, along with confirmation of key partners for the year.