Kane’s team raps up Season as Vice-Champions
October 30, 2012 by Tony Gregory
Ulsterman Jonny Kane rapped up his and Strakka Racing’s season by being confirmed its as vice-champions in the FIA Endurance Trophy for Private LMP1 Teams. Kane and his co-drivers Nick Leventis and Danny Watts achieved the feat by finishing on the podium in all eight rounds of the Championship – the final one being Saturday’s gruelling 6 Hours of Shanghai. Strakka Racing also finished the season 3rd in the Michelin Green X Challenge (beaten only by the two works Audi’s), while its drivers finished joint 7th in the final Drivers’ standings.
In qualifying the top three LMP1 Privateer teams were separated by just three thousands of a second separated the top three LMP1 Privateer teams with Watts completing three flying laps in the team’s Honda Performance Development ARX-03a – setting a 1:51.037 best, which was over two seconds faster than the team’s previous best time set in free practice. All free practice sessions were dedicated to fine-tuning the car to its optimum potential around the 3.387 mile (5.451km) Grand Prix circuit, in an effort to find a good high-speed performance for the long straights, stability in the long fast corners and the best aerodynamic downforce in the tight and twisty sections.
Twenty-eight cars started the race ; eight LMP1 and 10 each in the LMP2 and GT categories with Strakka challenging for the Privateer lead early on with a jet-lagged Kane making a brilliant start and overtook the no12 Rebellion (Neel Jani) and got alongside the no22 JRM (Karun Chandhok) for the Privateer lead at Turn 1, before Jani overtook them both into Turn 3. Kane eventually overtook Chandhok at Turn 14 on lap 11 to move up to 2nd Privateer and 5th overall, and immediately began to pull away. Having handed over to Watts for a double stint, who continued to hunt down the no12 Rebellion at a remarkable pace, quickly reducing the deficit from 21 to eight seconds.
The strategy of single stinting the tyre was paying dividends and Strakka Racing was closing in on the Privateer leader when bad luck intervened. First Watts had to make an unscheduled pit stop to replace a slow left rear puncture and, in a separate incident, he then got hit from behind by the no1 Audi driven by Marcel Fässler– forcing a longer pit stop to replace the car’s rear panel. Leventis got in for this first of two stints and was pushing hard before he too was hit from behind, this time by a Ferrari, which punted him off at Turn 11. After a precautionary pit stop he was able to continue, but the combined effect of his and Watt’s misfortunes were that at half distance Strakka Racing had gone from closing in on the Privateer leader (4th overall) to last Privateer and 10th overall.
Kane pushed hard on his second stint, putting more miles on the tyres than planned in an attempt to make up ground, before handing over to Leventis for the final stint. In fading light, Leventis drove faultlessly to make up considerable ground and when 4th Privateer and 7th overall appeared the most likely outcome, the retirement of the no12 Rebellion five laps from the end promoted Strakka Racing onto the Privateers’ podium and 6th overall.
Kane commented after the race “I thought Nick was outstanding today and really drove well in both his stints, particularly the last one which gave us the podium finish. Personally I was pleased. I’ve had jet-lag and haven’t slept well since I arrived in China, but you get used to not much sleep in sportscar racing and the lads in the team joke I drive better when I haven’t slept anyway! To finish second in the Privateers’ category, having moved back into LMP1 after two years in LMP2, and in a points-system that worked against one-car teams as well, is a great achievement by everyone at Strakka.”