Kane Stays Cool In Desert Heat For Podium
October 3, 2012 by Tony Gregory
Ulsterman Jonny Kane brought all his experience of night time racing to bear as he and Strakka Racing scored a magnificent double podium – 1st FIA WEC Privateer and 3rd overall at the 6 Hours of Bahrain (Saturday 29 September).
With limited previous experience of the 3.36 mile (5.412km) Bahrain Grand Prix circuit layout and the gruelling enduro starting in daylight and finishing in the desert darkness, Jonny’s skill and experience of night time racing paid dividends. With just a two week break after finishing 2nd Privateer and 5th overall in Brazil, Jonny and the team had to make full use of the simulator to get familiarised with the track, as well as establishing a solid base technical set-up for its 3.4-litre normally aspirated, 600bhp, Honda Performance Development ARX-03a.
In the build up to qualifying, a great team effort was shown by the LMP1 driver line-up of Nick Leventis, Danny Watts and Jonny Kane with Strakka Racing setting the fastest Privateer time in both Free Practice 1 and 2 – setting a time beaten only by the two works Audis and works Toyota.
As the track temperature dropped from its 60ºC at midday to 40ºC by the time qualifying started at 16.30 and with the temperature continuing to drop rapidly all the time, crews waited for as long as possible before attempting their qualifying runs. Indeed half way through the 20-minute session, only three out of the 18 prototypes (seven P1 and 11 P2) had set a time. With six and a half minutes of qualifying remaining, Watts left the pit lane for two planned flying laps. The team had managed the traffic perfectly, giving him a clear track in which to run unhindered. He initially set a 1:48.952 lap time before bettering it with a 1:48.446 – both of which were good enough for 2nd in the P1 Privateers’ class, behind the no12 Rebellion.
The speed and reliability of the 600bhp, HPD ARX-03a, impeccable pit crew work and the team’s strategy of only single-stinting its drivers paid dividends, allowed all 3 drivers to push hard at all times, regardless of the fact that the race started in extreme desert heat conditions – with air and track surface temperatures of 35 and 43ºC respectively.
In extreme desert heat conditions Kane made the perfect start from the inside of row three and held onto 2nd Privateer position during a faultless 26-lap stint. Leventis took over and despite painful pins and needles throughout his stint, he moved Strakka Racing into the Privateer lead. However, he had to be helped out of the car at the driver change and, unable to move easily, struggled to strap Watts into the car as quickly as normal. The 40 seconds lost in the pits saw Watts re-join the race as 3rd Privateer, as the desert darkness descended.
The team then hunted down the two Rebellion Racing Lolas ahead. Watts overtook the no13 car driven by Andrea Belicchi before Kane closed in on the no12 of Nicolas Prost, until the latter pitted, surrendering the Privateer lead. Strakka had another driver change coming up, and despite having to repair a damaged left hand side number plate, Watts re-joined in the lead after a magnificent lightning quick pit crew procedure.
With a healthy Privateer lead, the no7 works Toyota dived down the inside of Kane to lap him, but made contact. Kane was forced to come into the pits to replace a rear left puncture, while the Toyota suffered irreparable damaged. Despite some impact-related handling problems, Kane was able to complete the race at a good pace, finishing a lap ahead of the no12 Rebellion to win the Privateers’ award and finish 3rd overall behind the two works Audis.
Jonny: “Our pace has been really good all season, the competition in the P1 Privateers’ category is very close and this time we came out on top. We’ve had a good car underneath us all season, and it’s a fantastic achievement to not only win the Privateers’ award, but to also stand on the third step of the overall podium – it just shows what a great team effort this was. I had a little coming together with the no7 Toyota. Its transponder wasn’t working, so we didn’t know it was following me, but where it tried to overtake I don’t really think was the right place because they have a massive straight-line speed advantage over us and could have safely overtaken on a straight. At the end of the day it was just a racing incident, but it gave us a puncture, damaged a side pod and upset the balance of the car so it was sliding about a lot. Luckily we were able to continue at a fairly good pace and finish the race.”
The results ensures that Strakka Racing remains in contention for the WEC for Privateers’ title with two races remaining in Japan and China, with a large points advantage over its third placed rival. Round 7 of the FIA WEC is the 6 Hours of Fuji on October 14.