Strakka Racing’s remarkable season continues to break records, with a first ever outright win for an LMP2 car in Europe at the Hungaroring yesterday evening. Following on from the squad’s class win at Le Mans in June, which established a new benchmark for LMP2 in terms of pace, distance and overall position, the Strakka HPD rewrote the history books again in Round 4 of the 2010 Le Mans Series in Hungary. Strakka’s driver line-up of Danny Watts, Nick Leventis and Jonny Kane spearheaded an unprecedented top-six sweep by the LMP2 front-runners as the LMP1 prototypes hit widespread reliability issues.
The team’s extraordinary day had started with another ‘first’, when Danny Watts took outright pole in the morning’s official qualifying. In a twenty minute session that only really came to life in the final moments, the team held Watts back in the pitlane until the last three minutes, leaving just enough time for two flying laps. His first took class pole, and third overall. His second (01:32.431) eclipsed everyone else to secure the top slot.
“The car was just working exceptionally well,” said Danny Watts. “This sort of circuit really suits us. It’s tight and twisty, and the P2 cars are lighter and more nimble through the corners. We knew we had to conserve our tyres for the race, and two flying laps had to be enough, but we never expected to be on outright pole. The priority was always to get the point for class pole, so coming out on top overall was just a bonus.”
His own reward was to be given first stint in the race, but there was never any intention of battling for the race lead. After a conservative start, he worked back through to second overall before his first fuel stop, simultaneously establishing a strong class lead which he handed on to Nick Leventis for the mid-race stints. Leventis maintained the momentum, extending the class advantage, and with almost four hours gone, took the outright lead when the leading Oreca Peugeot 908 hit problems.
Jonny Kane completed the final two hours, anchoring the team’s run through to an astonishing class and overall win. “That was awesome, simply awesome,” said Piers Phillips, Team Manager at Strakka. “We felt we had a chance of a podium, but we never dreamed of an outright win. I just feel so proud for the team. It was an intense weekend, but everyone played their part – Wirth Research, HPD, Michelin, the drivers, the mechanics, technicians, the engineers, everyone. They’ve all worked so hard, and this is the result they deserved.”
“Danny and Jonny are both quite exceptional drivers,” he added. “They’re quick, they’re experienced and they’re both fantastic in traffic, but our weekend hinged on Nick. He’s never been here before, and I knew he’d be under a tremendous amount of pressure, but I needn’t have worried. He was just so impressive in the race, and he drove brilliantly.”
Piers was keen to acknowledge the contributions of Crew Chief Karl Patman and Race Engineer Dan Walmsley, who helped plan the team’s race strategy. “This has been an amazing achievement for us, and also for the Series as a whole, especially with the rule changes that are coming up for next year. From Strakka’s point of view, we’re right back in the running for the title now, and that has been our primary focus all season. We can head for Silverstone, our home circuit, knowing that there’s everything to race for.”