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Former Series

Strakka Racing to enter WEC with new HPD ARX-03a

© Strakka Racing

Strakka Racing aims to revive the tradition of the small British privateer sportscar team taking on the giant car manufacturers when the Silverstone-based squad contests the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).

The announcement, made during the Autosport 6 Hours of Silverstone, confirms that drivers Nick Leventis, Jonny Kane and Danny Watts will move from a LMP2 chassis in the Le Mans Series to a P1 Honda Performance Development HPD ARX-03a in the WEC.

The car will be powered by a 3.4-litre normally aspirated HPD V8 engine (which has been designed and built by HPD at its headquarters in Santa Clarita, California), have an entirely new Wirth Research designed chassis and run on Michelin tyres. Testing will begin later this year in the USA, before the car is transported to its new home at Silverstone.

Established in 2007, Strakka Racing made its Le Mans 24 Hour race debut in 2008 with an Aston Martin DBR9 GT1, followed with a Ginetta-Zytek GZ09S LMP1 in 2009. A new chapter in the team’s short yet successful history began with its association with Honda Performance Development, which saw a remarkable 2010 season – in which it raced the HPD-ARX 01c and became the first P2 team to win a round of the Le Mans Series outright (Hungaroring) and break five records at the Le Mans 24 Hours – including the highest overall finish by a P2 car in the history of the event, when it came home in 5th. It remains in contention for the 2011 LMS LMP2 title, after a season of exceptional team-work, intelligent race strategy, faultless driving, dogged determination and the reliability of the twin-turbo V6-engined HPD-ARX 01d.

The calendar for the WEC has yet to be announced, but Strakka Racing has no hesitation in announcing its participation, confident that the Automobile Club de l’Ouest and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile will create a series befitting its world championship status. The Le Mans 24 Hours (16-17 June) has already been confirmed as one of the points-scoring rounds.

Nick Leventis: “The evolution of Strakka Racing has been remarkably quick and we’ve enjoyed a tremendous amount of success in a relatively short period of time. We always set out to be a world sportscar team and to compete at the very highest level. Our success, particularly in P2 last year, illustrates the ambition, drive, ability and skill of the team and that we are ready for the challenge of P1. We are proud of our relationship with HPD, Wirth Research and Michelin and it’s a privilege to make this journey into the FIA World Endurance Championship together and demonstrate what the HPD-ARX 03a can do on a world stage. For us, it’s also reviving the tradition of the small British privateer sportscar team taking on the big manufacturer teams. We hope to achieve some respectable results and spring some surprises, and I have every faith that the project will be a huge success.”

Danny Watts: “I’m very excited about racing in the top class in the new FIA World Endurance Championship. Racing on the world stage in LMP1 is a natural progression for us as a team, following our success in the LMP2 category over the last two years at the Le Mans 24 Hours and in the Le Mans Series. Next year’s car will clearly be very competitive as it’s already finished second at Sebring, and with further development and track time we are confident of extracting even more from it. From a driver’s point of view, I can’t wait for the new challenges that lie ahead with a new car, new circuits and different competition.”

Jonny Kane: “I’m obviously very excited about next year. I was lucky enough to have a run in the HPD LMP1 car out at Sebring after the race there earlier this year, so I got to have a taste of what’s in store for next year. I know there are some differences to the car we’ll be racing in 2012, but it was really good to have an early run and see what the car is capable of. As a driver coming up through the ranks, I never shied away from racing against anybody and I think everybody in the team shares that ambition judging by the way the guys prepare the trucks, the car, the speed of the pit stops, engineering and everything, so we’re really looking forward to going up against all the big guys like Audi and Peugeot and trying to show what we’re capable of.”

Piers Phillips, Team Principal and Technical Director: “I’m extremely thrilled and excited to be in the position to announce Strakka Racing’s plans for 2012 in the FIA World Endurance Championship so early ahead of the official programme announcement and before the end of the current season. It’s a fantastic position to be in and it reflects not only the strong relationship that exists between Strakka, HPD and Wirth Research, but also all the hard work that’s gone into the previous two and a half years. Any successful programme is a journey and our first two years were always going to be a learning curve and the plan was always to spend them in P2. The timing of this new opportunity to move into P1 has been impeccable, with the availability of the HPD-ARX 03a, the ACO and FIA’s creation of a brand new world championship and the position that Strakka is in in terms of its growth and development. It’s now ready to step up for the next challenge. We’re delighted to be able to run a car that’s undoubtedly going to be competitive from the word go due to the technical support of HPD, Wirth Research and Michelin, and we’re looking forward to relishing every challenge that next year throws up.”

Roger Griffiths, Technical Director at Honda Performance Development: “For everybody at Honda Performance Development, American Honda and also Honda Europe, it’s extremely exciting that this announcement is coming from Strakka Racing. This is an extension of a programme that’s been running for two years already and has seen a tremendous amount of success – Strakka were LMP2 winners at Le Mans in 2010 and very close to winning the championship the same year as well. What we’ve seen is Strakka grow as a race team into a very professional outfit. HPD prides itself on working with operations like Strakka and we believe the announcement to move to LMP1 now is a culmination of the fruits of our efforts over the past two years to really take the team to the next level. HPD is bringing its experience from sportscar racing in North America to help Strakka get the success that we know that they’re capable of and we’re very proud to continue our relationship.”

Nick Wirth, President of Wirth Research: “Wirth Research has worked with Strakka Racing for some time now and we are two companies tied by a common quest for perfection and success. With Nick Leventis, Danny Watts and Jonny Kane driving, Strakka presents a formidable on-track force and, coupled with the excellent technical team lead by Piers Phillips and Karl Patman [Assistant Team Manager], they set the highest standards of professionalism. We are delighted to renew our partnership with them.”

Discussion

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  1. This is hugely signifigant and very excited. The WEC will be contested by 5 manufacturers in P1, with different levels of support and competitiveness. Audi, Peugeot, Aston Martin, Toyota and Honda.

    How fabulous!!

    Its such a shame about that hideous wing, though! Lets hope their livery will work it into what is actually a very nice body shape.

    Posted by William Mound | September 12, 2011, 0:12
  2. I just love the headlights on this thing. When Highcroft ran it at Sebring that first caught my eye. They just look so unique and creative.

    I doubt this program will be at full song, since the owner Nick Leventis will be in the mix.

    Honda has apparently been developing this chassis, with Wyrth, and they’re refining their engines for 2012 Indycar season. So this is proof that Honda wasn’t that affected by the earth quake, and highcroft withdrew from he alms with other obscure reasons.

    Posted by Bamba | September 12, 2011, 3:51
  3. Can’t Pescarolo make a bid to get one of these and run it alongside his own chassis?

    Sure Henry’s team is still strong but with the upgrades everyone is making it almost makes it seem as if he’s falling behind.

    His car has the old 5.5L V10 Judd while the Oak cars have the 3.4L Judd unit and they’re faster.

    I don’t think it would be hard for them to make a presentation to Honda detailing why they deserve to be Honda team. They have the results and experience for the job, and with this car they will better sponsorship.

    Posted by Bamba | September 12, 2011, 3:59
  4. Henri should speak to Mazda. With Mazda France sponsering Oak and Henri being the hero of France, his name a prestige would make a great team to support, and they already have a factory LMP1 engine with no representation in Europe or Le Mans.

    It makes sense to me to spend the extra on supporting Henri in the WEC. Then we’d have SIX manufacturers.

    As it is, I suspect he will run in P2 in the LMS with a potential P1 just for Le Mans alongside the P2. Probably with a Judd engine.

    Posted by William Mound | September 12, 2011, 10:14
  5. Oak no longer has any mazda ties. The racing is all done out of Jacque Nicolet’s pocket and with contributions from his other wealthy friends (Jean Yvon, Richard Hein, Frederic Darocha, Patrice Lafarge).

    Sad thing is that if Oak made a bid to Honda they would most likely get a deal before Pescarolo. Because of their elaborate team setup and resources.

    Posted by Bamba | September 12, 2011, 16:13
  6. Good news about Strakka / Honda. So too Toyota. Nobody from Nissan was able or willing to give a hint over the weekend what factory involvement they may have in P1 in 2012 or 2013. Though John Hindhaugh’s [actually quite humorous] persistence did manage to get a comment on Sunday afternoon that there was more than one route – look at what Aston did with Lola.

    Nick Leventis is quicker than some in P1, he’s generally reliable and doesn’t insist on doing long stints despite being the money man.

    The Pescarolo is sadly past it, as is the Aston V12. The rules that ‘grand fathered’ them in for 2011 have put them far out of contention for the petrol P1 ‘bis class’. Left behind as some suggest, and with no way to close the widening gap. Really sad to see them struggle so much at the weekend.

    Posted by XJ8 | September 12, 2011, 18:34
  7. Another hint that WEC will be the pure works and LMP1 championship, and LMS will be the pure amateur and LMP2 championship. But if the owner Leventis will still be in the lineup, Honda will have to look for a second team with a more professional lineup to be really competitive. Pescarolo might be a solution for that, if they don’t insist on their own chassis. And for Aston Martin: either they put really honest development power into the AMR-One for 2012, or they better leave endurance racing completely.

    Posted by kw | September 12, 2011, 19:50
  8. Nick Leventis is pretty fast, but he can’t dice it up with the Pagenauds and Bernards of the world. Guys at their peak of their career, who have the speed for F1.

    Had he started racing at a younger age he could have been superb. When they were in P1 (with the Zytek) the car was too violent for him. They would have went to P1 this year but decided to have another year of P2 experience.

    With him in the mix Danny Watts and Johny Kane might not be able to tune the car to their liking. Especially with the Acura’s flat out cornering prowess.

    At silverstone Jacque Nicolet decided not to drive his car when he realized that Olivier Pla and Premat had a chance at the podium.

    Posted by Bamba | September 12, 2011, 20:43
  9. Actually Bamba, OAK has its bills being paid by Gulf Oil (hence the Gulf blue & orange liveries). I don’t think OAK is going to do anything but run an updated Pescarolo chassis for next year because they own the IP for Pescarolo and have said before they would like to design their own car in their new design facilities they bought from Pescarolo. Also Pescarolo will probably go into the WEC because when interviwed at Silverstone he said he wouldn’t like to take a step back to LMP2 in the Le Mans Series next year if he had a say, and it would also depend on sponsorship.

    Posted by Michael Almaguer | September 12, 2011, 21:08
  10. Gulf is a contributor. But they don’t pay everything. Without Gulf they would still be running the program as is.

    Gulf pays the cost to have the cars liveried in their colors.

    For the WEC this is the car Pescarolo should be chasing. It will make it easier for him to find top sponsors once again.

    Posted by Bamba | September 13, 2011, 5:30
  11. How much of Pescarolo’s old facilities does OAK own, because it might end up being that Pescarolo Team ends up running OAK chassis. Or they could go crawling back to Courage (Now owned by Oreca) for an LMP2 chassis…

    Posted by SchellZ | September 13, 2011, 7:31
  12. They could go for a Zytek. I doubt it, but it’s m favorite privateer chassis.

    In the ALMS Dyson and Muscle milk are threatening to bolt for Grand Am if petrol cars can’t compete with diesels. So they are putting pressure on the ALMS to do whatever wheeling and dealing necessary to make it happen.

    If it works and Petrol cars are closer Pescarolo might just run an Oak Pescarolo with a 3.4 Judd, 3.4 Zytek, 3.4 Honda,….3.4 Nissan?

    Posted by Bamba | September 13, 2011, 16:55
  13. The HPD is a customer car anyone can buy, Muscle Milk are looking at one.

    Oak are looking to build their own cars and Pescarolo would like to but budget considerations may push them down the customer route.

    Posted by mA66 | September 15, 2011, 2:37
  14. Now the HPD has become a customer car? Even if it is, it’s likely the most expensive chassis aside from an Audi or Peugeot. So only well-heeled teams can get one.

    That drop in status could have been what drove Lowe’s Fernandez and then Highcroft away. They didn’t want to have to be paying for those pricey parts. They were used to the factory backing they enjoyed in 2007, 2008.

    Now I remember in 2009 highcroft mentioning they are “leasing” engines. And all the Acura signs were removed from the car.

    Posted by Bamba | September 15, 2011, 14:46
  15. I don’t think the HPD is a customer car anyone can buy. What Strakka did was to buy the Highcroft material to proceed to LMP1, but this is not backed up by any Honda or chassis manufacturer support any more.
    And I don’t think Pescarolo will make a deal with OAK, when the last deal they made ended with a fincancial desaster for Henri. A deal between Pescarolo and ORECA is the more logical solution.

    Posted by kw | September 18, 2011, 19:05
  16. HPD is really a customer chassis. So it might not be as developed as a manufacturer chassis, the way we think a full fledged HPD program would be.

    But if a top team like Pescarolo were to put itself in the mix that could be the motivating factor for HPD to throw more resources into the project.

    Posted by Bamba | September 19, 2011, 1:26
  17. Oreca launched it’s Formula LeMans car before pescarolo launched it’s Pescarolo Ecole car.

    So Gravity management/Genii Capital no longer saw the value in buying up Pescarolo sport.

    No one is talking about it, but the rise of Oreca was in direct contrast to the demise of Pescarolo sport

    Posted by Bamba | September 19, 2011, 1:35
  18. Maybe the ecole could have run alongside the oreca FLM, that would have made for a far more interesting “LMP3″.

    Posted by SchellZ | September 19, 2011, 9:06
  19. @Bamba:
    Thanks for the information, didn’t know about that before. In this case Pescarolo should really think about how to motivate HPD to make a Pesca-HPD team comparable to Rebellion-Toyota.

    Posted by kw | September 19, 2011, 16:56

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