Barcelona Debut Two months of intense testing and development come to a head next weekend when Strakka Racing makes its prototype racing debut in Round 1 of the 2009 Le Mans Series. The team’s three drivers; Peter Hardman, Nick Leventis and Danny Watts, will head out onto the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona knowing that their preparation has been meticulous and thorough and the Strakka Racing Ginetta-Zytek GZ09S is as well-prepared to face the challenge ahead as they are.
Over the course of the last few weeks the squad has completed more than 3000 kilometres of testing: in the Algarve; at Paul Ricard in the south of France; and last week at the former Grand Prix circuit at Estoril in Portugal. It has been an exhilarating schedule for a team that only raced in the Le Mans Series for the first time in May 2008, and one that sees them on the verge of taking on the world’s finest in LMP1.
Peter Hardman, founder and team principal at Strakka Racing, is undaunted. “As I've said before, this is a big step for us, but one we always intended making. It’s just come a little sooner than we first envisaged. Now that we have completed our initial preparation, which has gone so well, I feel we’re in great shape. However, I don't for a minute underestimate the experience of the other teams and drivers, but I'm really looking forward to the challenges of competing at this level, both as a driver and as a team owner.”
“We have a lot of exceptionally capable people in the team and our potential is huge, but we have to be sensible about our target next weekend,” agrees Nick Leventis. “This will be our first race in the new car, but I have every faith that we can cause a few surprises. We have enormous enthusiasm as a team, and after so much successful testing, it’s going to come as a relief to get out there and race.”
Last week’s Estoril test saw the team complete two full days of trouble-free running. “It went faultlessly,” said Danny Watts. “We were able to exploit all that track time and try a host of different settings on the car. As a team we learned so much and I think it’s safe to say that we’re all now looking forward to Barcelona with some justifiable confidence. We’re in excellent shape and I’m sure that the car’s going to be very, very competitive.”
Danny Watts, the newcomer to the line-up, is pleased with how well the team is gelling. “I’m happy to be able to share my experience of the car, and I’m especially encouraged by the way Nick has adapted to the demands of driving a prototype,” he said. Nick appreciates the compliment. “Danny’s turn of speed is incredible, and he’s been such an inspiration,” he says. The demands upon Peter have been equally intense. “I’m very pleased to be on Danny’s pace already. During our Estoril test I also completed some very long runs in the car and my times were satisfyingly consistent.”
Strakka Racing will be up against ten of the best in LMP1 at Barcelona, including Aston Martin’s new Lola coupé and a pair of Audi R10s in the hands of German squad Kolles. “I still think we’ll be out there at the sharp end, and if we can collect a decent haul of points in Round 1, it will give our season a healthy kick-start,” says Danny Watts. “Yes, a podium would be nice, but looking long term, securing a solid finish and some points have to be our top priority.”