“We're going to Le Mans this year to try and win it again,” said Nick Leventis, who will share the HPD ARX-01d with Danny Watts and Jonny Kane. “It would be great to score a back-to-back victory, although we think we'll be slightly down on performance because of our engine's air restrictor, but we'll go there and try to do what we do at every race – and that's to race hard, try to stay out of trouble and make sure we're there at the end.”
A regulation shake-up by race organisers the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) means the car Strakka are taking to France, and the machines it will have to beat are markedly different from last year. Compared to the 01c chassis the team ran last year their 2011 charge is 95kgs heavier and powered by a V6 engine that produces 75hp less than last year's larger V8. The team are, however, to use the same Wirth Research developed aero package they ran last year.
“It will be a lot harder because the rules have changed from last year,” assesses Watts, who shone in the car throughout 2010. “We've got an air restrictor, we're a lot slower down the straights compared to other cars in LMP2 and we've got less speed – and Le Mans is a track where you need top speed – so pace-wise it will be very difficult. I still think we can win. We learnt a lot last year about how to win Le Mans, because it's not all about being the quickest car – it's about having reliability, having an easy car to drive, an easy car on the tyres, a good strategy, fast pit stops and no mishaps from the drivers.”
Consistency has served the team well so far, helping to lead the LMP2 category of the Le Mans Series after third places in both six hours so far this season – Paul Ricard and Spa-Francorchamps.
“In some ways the pressure is off,” said Leventis, “because we won't run away from the rest of the field at the beginning of the race, and we may have to wait for the reliability of our package to come to the fore. We have our own strategy, and part of that is not making any mistakes and waiting for the race to come back to us after the mid to late stages of the twenty-four hours. It's going to be a very challenging race. Le Mans is always a race of attrition and a twenty-four hour race is all about who is there at the end.”
The first on track running for the team at the Relentless Energy Drink and The Sun backed car should be on Wednesday afternoon with Free Practice. The first qualifying session startse at 10pm (local time) with the second session at the same time the following day.
Saturday – race day – morning includes a 45 minute warm up before the 24 Hours itself starts at 3pm.