Strakka Racing came from 56th and last at the beginning of the Le Mans 24 Hours to fight back to 7th place with three hours remaining, before a water pressure problem forced its Honda Performance Development ARX-03a into the pit garage.
But the supreme efforts of drivers Nick Leventis, Danny Watts and Jonny Kane and the entire team did not go unrewarded, as they crossed the finish line to score 3rd placed points in the FIA World Endurance Championship for Privateers’.
Having enjoyed a completely trouble-free build-up to race day, dominating the top privateer category throughout Free Practice and Qualifying, an oil leak in the transmission system prevented the #21 HPD ARX-03a from taking its rightful 7th place on the grid. It took 22 minutes before Jonny was able to join the race, six laps behind the leaders – but it received a massive cheer from the 70,000 British spectators, as the fighting bulldog spirit began an astonishing comeback.
The HPD ARX-03a was consistently the fastest privateer car out on track, and in parts its lap times were only surpassed by those of the leading works Audis.
All three drivers drove exceptionally well. Nick took control for two of the most difficult parts of the race – the dusk and sunrise stints, where track temperature and visibility fluctuate – and moved the team up the field with fast, consistent and precise driving, despite the road course’s vibrations causing considerable discomfort to his left leg, during slow-moving periods behind the Safety Cars.
Jonny, using Danny’s seat in an attempt to prevent a repeat of his own leg problems experienced at Sebring, drove superbly. A spin and subsequent contact with the wall at the final corner at night, when a misunderstanding in communications saw him push harder than needed, was his only glitch in an otherwise truly outstanding performance.
Danny was particularly pleased with his very first and final stints, in which every lap was driven like a qualifying lap in an effort to get the car up the leaderboard – which was achieved with enormous success. His quadruple night time stint saw the team climb from 18th to 11th position – which was also a credit to the Michelin tyres, that were able to run for almost three hours without changing.
With five hours remaining, concerns began to grow about the car’s water pressure. Eventually there was a fear that the car may stop out on track and the team not finish the race, so in order to prevent a DNF the car was parked in the garage for much of the final three hours – only returning to the track for Jonny to take the chequered flag. It certainly wasn’t the way Strakka Racing wanted to finish the race, but it gave them valuable points in the WEC; made all the more important as double points were awarded at Le Mans.
In all, it was a great weekend for Honda Performance Development as it won the LMP2 class with the American-based Starworks Racing claiming the category victory in its first Le Mans start.
Starworks, which earlier this year won LMP2 at the 12 Hours of Sebring, made its 24 Hours of Le Mans debut in the most impressive way possible, with drivers Ryan Dalziel, Tom Kimber-Smith and Enzo Potolicchio piloting their HPD ARX-03b to a seventh overall finish, one lap ahead of the next LMP2 entry.