Strakka Racing scored a sensational top 10 finish on the famous 12 Hours of Sebring, after its new Honda Performance Development ARX-03a performed faultlessly on its race debut. Driven by Nick Leventis, Jonny Kane and Danny Watts, a characteristically determined performance on its US debut saw the Silverstone-based team score points in the FIA World Endurance Championship, as it finished 4th in LMP1 and 2nd in the Privateers’ category.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, as four stop and go penalties delayed proceedings. Jonny also suffered from numbness in his right leg, restricting his driving to just one stint at a time. This forced the team into a change of race strategy and due to an incident packed race with a combination of full course yellows and safety cars, Danny ended up covering over 60 percent of the race distance.
The Michelin-shod 3.4-litre normally aspirated V8 engined P1 prototype ran faultlessly throughout the entire 12-hour race, which is a testament to all the hard word that the team put in to building the car from scratch over the winter.
Jonny started the race from 5th position on the grid after car #22 took to the pits on the formation lap. The plan had been to double stint all three drivers continuously, but after an hour in the car Jonny complained about numbness in his right leg, which was preventing him from feeling the pedals. The team had no choice but to bring the 38-year old Northern Irish driver in and change over to Danny. It was suspected that the seating position was the culprit, and despite several attempts a cure could not be found.
The Safety Car was deployed no less than 11 times during the race to clear racing incidents. All three Strakka drivers did a stellar job to avoid any contact on the crowded track, and the HPD ARX-03a evaded any collisions and sustained no bodywork damage whatsoever.
Nick Leventis: “This is a fantastic team result which highlights the effort every single person has put into this programme over the past three months to get us here now. Competing at Sebring with a new car in the top class of a world championship was never going to be easy, but it shows that with the right attitude and preparation you can achieve a good result and that’s exactly what we’ve done today. Under very difficult conditions, we’ve come away with some really good points in the championship and made a solid start to the season. To finish second in the LMP1 WEC Privateers’ trophy so far is an amazing result and we should all be very proud however it’s going to be a very tough season and we have a lot to do. We have learnt a lot this week and now will be hard at work looking to improve on this as we prepare for the next round in Spa in May.”
Jonny Kane: “The whole team is pretty happy with the result we achieved at Sebring. The reliability of the car was really good and we had no technical problems, which goes to show all the hard work that the boys have put in over the past couple of months to get us here. It’s been a really tough week for them, so it’s nice that Nick, Danny and I were able to bring the car home with a good result. I kept getting pins and needles in my right leg which made my foot go numb, to the point where I couldn’t feel the brake pedal anymore. I could only manage one stint in the car at a time, which is really disappointing for me because it’s a team effort and I wanted do my share. It was just too much of a risk and I didn’t want to make a mistake that I couldn’t recover. The sensible thing to do was just to stop each time and unfortunately for Danny that meant he had an awful lot of driving to do. He did a great job, as did Nick, and we came away with some good points.”
Danny Watts: “It’s been a very tough, long race. We had a few drive-through penalties which cost us quite a lot of time, but most importantly we’ve done what we came to Sebring to do and that was to get some really good points for the championship. We’ve also learnt a huge amount about the new car and we’ll take that data and use it to move forward before Spa. Sebring is a very demanding track on both driver and car and getting the right set-up there is crucial. We’re really pleased with how well the car has run and all in all it’s been a very productive week and a great start to the season.”
Piers Phillips, Team Principal/Technical Director: “Before we arrived in Sebring, if someone had said to me you can have second place in the Privateers’ cup I’d have bitten their hand off – so to come back from where we were mid-race and achieve that is a great performance by all. It has got to be one of the hardest races we’ve ever done. When you look at all the other cars that had issues throughout the race and ours ran faultlessly for twelve hours, you have to give credit to our pit crew and all three drivers who drove consistently well and didn’t hit anybody. The team performance and race result is a truly great start to the season.”
Round 2 of the FIA World Endurance Championship is the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium (3-5 May).