After standing on the overall podium at an FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) event for the first time in Bahrain Strakka Racing are seeking another “giant-killing” performance in the shadow of Mount Fuji.
The all-British team finished their in Bahrain, closing the gap on Rebellion Racing in the LMP1 privateers’ standings of the WEC with just two races – this weekend’s Six Hours of Mount Fuji and the finale in Shanghai – remaining in the season.
Two thirds of the driver line-up that shares the team’s HPD ARX-03a have never raced in Japan, Danny Watts the odd-one-out in that respect as he explains; “I raced at Montegi for Honda Racing in the final round of the 2004 Japanese Formula 3 Championship and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. I went back the following winter to do some testing in the Dome F3 car, and over one month I visited every race circuit except Fuji and Autopolis.”
“This will be my first visit to Fuji and I don’t know anything about it except the on-board videos I’ve seen and the work we’ve done on the sim. I had some down time the last time I was in Japan to have a look around and I love the country, I love the people and it’s the one race on the WEC calendar that I’ve been looking forward to the most. Japan is also the first place I ever experienced an earthquake. I was in the hotel reception in Montegi checking emails before the race meeting and everything began to shake. The hotel staff were completely unfazed and didn’t seem to notice it at all, but I was thoroughly and utterly scared and it’s something I’ll never forget.”
Though his co-drivers Nick Leventis and Jonny Kane will be making their first trips to Japan the man with the most experience of racing the country in the team is Karl Patman, the team’s assistant manager and crew chief.
Between 1988 and 1991 Patman worked as a junior mechanic on Porsche 962 in the Japanese Sportscar Championship working with drivers including Johnny Herbert, Rickard Rydell, Roland Ratzenberger and Bob Wollek.
“It was an absolute privilege to visit Japan at such a young age and one that I’ll never forget,” said Karl. “I loved the country, culture and people, and I’m really looking forward to going back, especially Gotemba [a city to the south-east of Mount Fuji] where I’ve spent so much time.”
The squad will face stronger opposition in Japan, OAK Racing returning to LMP1 alongside the pair of Rebellion Racing Lolas and JRM’s HPD. A lap of the Fuji circuit includes a mix of tight corners and long fast bends giving the team’s a challenge to balance the high downforce necessary for the corners with the straight line speed needed to the long front straight.