Strakka Racing’s three drivers, Peter Hardman, Nick Leventis and Danny Watts, spent much of yesterday’s Spa 1000 Kilometres playing catch-up after having to start the race from the pitlane. Without a series of minor glitches, they could have confidently hoped for a top-six finish, but the trio still put on a brave display of dicing through the field to record nineteenth overall at the chequered flag.
After being caught out on a patch of oil and flat-spotting the tyres, Danny Watts had been unable to set a representative time for the #23 Ginetta-Zytek GZ09S in qualifying. Facing the need to fit a new set of Michelins before the race, the team had no option under the regulations but to take the start from the pitlane, where Peter Hardman, driving the first stint for Strakka, joined a queue of six others.
The opening moments of the six-hour race were thrown into confusion after one car spun off on the warm-up lap, and two others came together at the first corner. Held back in the pitlane, Peter’s initial concerns were alleviated when a safety car was immediately despatched. Able to catch up with the tail-enders under controlled conditions, Peter was perfectly placed when racing resumed two laps later, and made up eighteen positions on the first racing lap. He followed that with ten more during the two laps that followed, and by the completion of lap four the Strakka Racing Ginetta-Zytek was already up to 22nd.
A second safety car bunched up the field again, and when the restart came Peter was able to gain another handful of places, and with just forty minutes gone, he’d moved through into 8th overall. Strakka’s first pitstop was briefly delayed while debris, wedged in a wheelarch, was removed, but at the end of his double-stint Peter was able to hand over to Nick Leventis from a consolidated ninth position, two hours into the race.
Every pitstop costs time, and Nick came out into 13th place, but he faced a fresh challenge. “The car was suffering from serious understeer,” he said later, “and there was a massive vibration caused by an imbalance in the front-left tyre. We didn’t want to stop again, and lose even more time, so rather than taking on new tyres I just stayed out and did my best.” The car became increasingly difficult to drive, but Nick persevered, and only dropped one position in his first hour. During the next pitstop the engine was reluctant to re-start, but eventually roared into life, but valuable seconds had again been lost.
Heading into the fourth hour of the race, Danny Watts took over in the cockpit, and once again the engine was reluctant to fire up, but after a brief delay, the Ginetta-Zytek was back on track in 16th position. “Danny immediately started to make up a lot of time,” said Nick. “He was climbing up through the field, looking very strong, and that was definitely a ray of sunshine in our day.” Unfortunately, Danny would be back into the garage forty minutes later after the electrical fault became critical. A complete battery failure and associated problems required a stop of nearly 25 minutes to resolve.
This effectively ended Strakka’s hopes of a representative finish, but Danny fought back from 32nd with determination and impressive pace to cross the line 19th overall.
“Starting from the pitlane was always going to be interesting,” suggested Peter Hardman, Team Principal at Strakka Racing. “I really enjoyed my stints – great racing, and the speed differences are huge in certain parts of Spa. I was also pleased with the way the whole team recovered from each challenge the race threw at us. I think we actually had a very good race. Only the result is missing!”
“The car felt very competitive right from the moment I got into it,” said Danny Watts. “It was good in every department – the traction was good, it was excellent under braking, and the tyres were consistent. We just lost too much time in the pits with niggly little problems, which is a shame, because pace-wise we’re right up there with the best.”
“We’ve demonstrated that we have all the ingredients for success, but we now need a bit of polishing, and maybe some good luck,” added Nick. “We’re still learning, but this was a great team effort and the lads did a terrific job.”
The next outing for Strakka Racing is the Le Mans 24 Hours in five week’s time.