Strakka Racing’s trio of drivers, Peter Hardman, Nick Leventis and Danny Watts, came away from the official ACO Le Mans Series test at the Paul Ricard circuit feeling very positive about the outcome. The team’s new Ginetta-Zytek GZ09S took part in four out of the five available sessions, and emerged consistently third or fourth fastest in LMP1.
"We’re still learning so much about the car, every time we go out, and the more we learn, the quicker we’re able to go," said Team Principal Peter Hardman. "We’ve made great strides forwards this weekend, but we lost most of the second day to a vibration issue."
This came to light early on Monday morning. “For the sake of safety we investigated the problem very thoroughly, and finally got to the bottom of it, but it cost us 90% of the second day. Better to happen at a test than during a race weekend,” added Peter. "Aside from that, the car has been excellent. It’s quick, responsive, very forgiving, and handles exceptionally well. Much of the credit for that must go to Michelin, of course. The grip and consistency from the tyres has been excellent.”
“We’re very pleased with the way things have gone,” said Ginetta-Zytek works driver Danny Watts, who has joined Strakka for the season. “The results are really starting to show, and despite a fairly conservative approach over the two days, we can see that we’ve certainly got the pace. To be third quickest here, straight out of the box, is very encouraging. The car is just so driveable! It’s easy to get into a rhythm and then to be consistently quick, lap after lap.”
Danny spent the bulk of the first day’s track time in the cockpit, working on a base set-up for the very rapid 5.7 kilometre Paul Ricard circuit. “We were not working too hard on perfecting settings for this particular track, knowing that we’ll never have to race here, but it was important to achieve a balance that we could all be happy with.” The focus was on two aspects of the test – working together as a team, and collating data that should prove constructive when Strakka Racing arrives at Le Mans for the 24 Hours in June. “The night running is particularly valuable for us ahead of Le Mans, and also in anticipation of the Algarve night race in August,” added Danny.
All three drivers have experience of night driving, having raced previously at Le Mans, but Peter and Nick have yet to race the Ginetta-Zytek in the dark. “We need to try the lights, assess how much illumination they provide, and attune ourselves to driving in those conditions,” explained Peter. "It’s just one aspect of the test here." He and Nick completed eight laps each late on Sunday evening.
The team covered nearly 1000 kilometres in the first day alone. “I’m very happy with the way it went,” declared Piers Phillips, Chief Race Engineer. “Although it was frustrating to lose so much time on Monday to the vibration, it has still been an excellent test for us, and an encouraging follow-up to our Algarve run last month. The benefits have been right across the board, not only as a new team bonding together, but also from all the data we’ve collected. We’re making progress every day, and while the drivers are growing more comfortable with the car, and more confident, their pace is getting quicker.”
“We were particularly pleased to be third quickest in class during Sunday’s daylight sessions,” said Nick Leventis. “Especially as some of the others were running last year’s aerodynamics.” New regulations have been introduced for 2009 intended to slow down the cars, but a few were still running the older configuration at Paul Ricard. “From a personal perspective, I’ve been very encouraged to see that my times have been coming down quite rapidly. The Ginetta-Zytek is such a very different car from the Aston we raced last year, so every lap we complete, in daylight or at night, gives us a better understanding. Even though we lost so much of Monday, this has been a very valuable and productive test.”
The team is on track again later this week at Estoril in Portugal, and then moves to Barcelona at the start of April for Round 1 of the Le Mans Series.