Tim Sugden: “We do a lot of work to prepare our drivers”


At this year’s Young Driver Test in Jerez, Strakka Racing was in action in both the Formula Renault 3.5 and Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 categories. In a short space of time the Silverstone-based squad has quickly got to grasps with the recently acquired 2.0 chassis.

In both the fiercely contested Eurocup and hard fought NEC series, Strakka Racing has scored top ten finishes and underlining how quickly the team has got to grips with the car, a fastest lap. Whilst at first glance ART topped the times, a deeper look at the data highlights that whilst Dennis Olsen in the Strakka 2.0 car wound up a very respectable third, more remarkable was the fact he achieved this in the typically slower session and without the benefit of new tyres.

The Checkered Flag spoke to Strakka’s driver coach Tim Sugden about the test, and he said the Olsen’s test in the 2.0 litre car was very last minute, but felt the Norwegian driver did an impressive job.

“The deal came together really late,” said Sugden. “We were running Dennis in our 3.5 and after a brief chat, he asked to have a run in the 2.0. It was very last minute and we hadn’t planned to run but our engineers are special guys and were quickly on it to sort a seat and pedals in time and turn out a sorted car.

“It was a short session and Dennis just had 2.5 hours and he was on it straight away. His first flying lap was P5! That was impressive and then on just his second lap he went quickest, ultimately ending third. What isn’t obvious is that he did that on old tyres.”

Sugden revealed that Olsen would have been even faster had he been able to get the most out of a new set of tyres, but ultimately he was impressed with his adaptability in both the 2.0 and 3.5 litre machines at Jerez.

“Traffic on those laps meant we didn’t make the most of them,” said Sugden said of Olsen’s runs with new tyres. “If we had I think Dennis would have found another few tenths. He was very, very good in both the 2.0 and 3.5 cars. It is a big jump between the cars but he was a true professional, got straight on it and drove very well.”

Strakka also gave Nicholas Latifi a day in the 3.5 Litre car, and Sugden was also impressed about how the Canadian worked with the team before he ran with Lotus the following day.

“Nicolas worked really well with the team and was equally impressive all day,” insisted Sugden. “He had a good week and was at the sharp end when he tested with Lotus too.

“Strakka has acquired a lot of data through our considerable experience in the category. We could see that he was consistently quick in the faster sections of the track. Like Dennis, he worked well with the team. Strakka is different to many FR3.5 teams in that all of our staff are full time and work together every day. That creates a good atmosphere and I think the drivers feed off that and can perform better.”

Latifi finished fourth fastest on day one of the test with Olsen eleventh, while Olsen moved up to ninth on day two, where they also gave Jake Hughes a run in the 3.5 Litre machine for the first time after being the main driver for Strakka Racing in the two Eurocup events they entered in 2014.

“Of course it is always nice to end a test at the top of the timesheet but the Young Driver tests are a little different,” reflected Sugden. “It’s more about providing an environment for drivers to experience a new car or team and learning to work together. Strakka is very experienced in nurturing drivers and alongside the track work we do a lot of work to prepare them.

“Strakka’s structured programmes go beyond what a normal team can provide and drivers working with us can get a taste of this at this test. Those in the know will drill into the detail and see how and at what time of the day those times were achieved and will appreciate how quickly we have got to grips with the 2.0 car.”

Sugden revealed that Strakka Racing would be returning to the Jerez track in November to run both the 2.0 and 3.5 litre machines once more so to give the team more knowledge heading into the 2015 seasons.

“We will be back out in Jerez in November for full tests of both cars,” said Sugden. “We have just scheduled a test plan with another driver yesterday but now we have three FR2.0 chassis – all new so Strakka has the chance to run more drivers.”