The Strakka Racing team believes it can still defeat chief rival Highcroft Racing for LMP2 honurs in this year's Le Mans 24 Hours, despite losing over three minutes after driver Nick Leventis spun into the gravel under safety car conditions at the beginning of the seventh hour.
The safety cars, deployed to retrieve the stricken JMW Aston Martin Vantage GT2 when it stopped out on track at the end of the sixth hour, separated the two leading HPD ARX-01c cars in LMP2 and handed Leventis a lead of nearly three minutes over Highcroft's Marco Werner. But that lead vanished when Leventis fell off the road at the Dunlop chicane and by the time he made it back to the pits to hand over to Jonny Kane, the race had restarted.
Werner, who was recovering from an unscheduled stop to change tires after a right rear deflated moments before the safety cars were deployed, then assumed a lead of nearly a minute as Kane rejoined the action.
"Nick just dropped it on cold tires under the safety car," said Strakka team manager Piers Philips. "He came on the radio straight away to say, 'Sorry, it was my fault,' but he managed to get it back [to the pits] before the next safety car [came around].
"We were leading, so it's really cost us, but I think our car is better on tires than the Highcroft car -- we'll see where we are when the sun comes up."
Highcroft boss Duncan Dayton said the lead would likely continue to seesaw between the two HPD cars and said he hoped his team's alternative fuel strategy would help it prevail.
"We're only a quarter of the way through, so it's all about trying to be consistent and stay out of the pits," he said. "We're slightly off their fuel strategy -- we're saving more fuel and hopefully that will pay off for us."