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Strakka Racing aims to ‘takeaway’ points at Shanghai

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With just 12 hours of racing left in the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship season, Strakka Racing hopes that by building on its pace from Fuji, the team can claim a top-five spot in the points standings at Shanghai.

Long straights and technical medium-speed sections highlight the 5.4km circuit at Jiading, a venue opened in 2004 at which Strakka Racing has only raced once before – finishing sixth overall in the inaugural WEC season back in 2012.

The points situation in the LMP2 Teams’ Championship is extremely tight with just two rounds remaining. A strong points haul at Shanghai could see eighth-placed Strakka Racing climb as high as fourth in the class with just 11 points separating it and fourth in the standings.

“We’re improving every time we go out with the Gibson,” says driver Jonny Kane. “I think a good result here will give us a lot to fight for when we head to the series’ finale at Bahrain. The whole team is motivated to finish above ESM, Sard and Alpine in the standings and it would be a massive achievement for us to do that after the year we’ve had.”

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One of the newer Hermann Tilke tracks that’s proved to be popular with drivers, the Shanghai International Circuit has hosted the Chinese round of the World Endurance Championship in each of its first four seasons. Its unique layout inspired by the Chinese character Shang (上), the first character in the name of the city Shanghai – has nonetheless proved very tough to master.

“It’s a really tricky track to set up a car for,” adds team principal Dan Walmsley. “The first corner is so tough on the drivers and requires a lot of downforce to get round quickly. Then there’s the lengthy back-straight into its famous hairpin. It’s a prime overtaking spot, but if the drivers misjudge the braking point, it can completely ruin their lap.”

The WEC race weekend at the circuit runs from the 30th of October to the 1st of November, with the race starting at 11am local time on Sunday.

Pre-Fuji Q&A with technical director Jay Davenport

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Strakka Racing is heading to the Fuji Speedway for the first time since the 2012 season, Jay Davenport – the team’s technical director – previews the event

Constructed in the early 1960s, Fuji Speedway is a mecca of Japanese motorsport made famous by its mile-long pit straight featuring the backdrop of Mount Fuji. Now in its fifth configuration, the Toyota-owned circuit was a mainstay on the World Sportscar Championship’s calendar in the 80s and has been a key round of the World Endurance Championship since its inception in 2012, attracting the largest crowds outside of the Le Mans 24 Hours.

What’s the team’s overall feelings prior to leaving for Japan?

It’s been a few years since Strakka has been at Fuji Speedway, last time the team raced there was in the FIA WEC’s inaugural season back in 2012, so we’re all looking forward to returning. Danny (Watts) in particular has a smile on his face, he loves driving there and almost snatched pole in the LMP1 privateer class last time.

What are the key characteristics of the Fuji Speedway that you have to prepare for?

The famous pit-straight comes to mind, but it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that’s the most crucial part of the circuit. There’s so much to be gained in the final sector, which is very technical and the long right-hander at Turn 4 wears the left-side tyres so much that we tend to run an asymmetrical camber. It’s a smooth track so we can make the most of that through optimizing the ride height and making the most of the kerbs!

So what do you expect from the Dunlop rubber this time round, having had them for a few events now?

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We feel we have a deeper understanding of them now, especially after CoTA. We’ll be running the Dunlop Medium and Medium Plus compounds throughout the weekend. The Gibson is pretty light on its tyres so we’re hoping to gain an advantage from that. Cooler temperatures in region surrounding Mount Fuji should fare better for the Gibson.  Nick Leventis, Jonny Kane and Danny Watts all have experience driving at the Speedway during the WEC’s inaugural season too, something we were missing from CoTA.

What’s the strategy for the weekend and the race?

Well Fuji is pretty unpredictable when it comes to weather, so we have to keep that in mind. The long-range forecast suggests we may see showers, but it can change in an instant, just look at the event two years ago when the WEC made the trip: sunny one day, torrential rain and mist the next!  One thing we do know is that Jonny (Kane) will be in the car for Qualifying this time round. He really likes the track. He’ll get extended running throughout Practice to ensure he’s at his best for the Qualifying session.

How about the competition, who do you think will be the biggest challenge to beat this time round?

Jay Davenport

The Ligiers are really strong and will continue to be, but we all think the Oreca 05 is still the car to beat. The 05 is such an efficient car and should be good down the pit-straight too. If the rain does come down though, all bets are off!

The fans at Fuji tend to be a talking point, as they’re so passionate and there are so many of them. Does that provide any extra motivation?

Definitely, it’s the biggest crowd of the year outside of Le Mans, and that makes a huge difference. It feels like a big event from what I’ve seen and that will get us all working that little bit harder to impress our fans. The drivers always say you can feed off 50,000+ people in the grandstands. I can’t wait to see the Strakka fans at the autograph sessions, we have no doubt there will be some after our history racing with Honda and DOME.

The on-track action for the WEC teams runs from the 9th-11th of October, with the race starting at 11am local time.

Lone Star Le Mans beckons for Strakka Racing

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After debuting its Gibson 015S chassis at the Nürburgring, Strakka Racing heads to the USA for the start of the fly-away stretch of the WEC season, where it will tackle Circuit of the Americas for the first time.

Strakka Racing travels to Austin, Texas next week, hoping to convert the Gibson’s head-turning pace into a win against its LMP2 rivals. Drivers Jonny Kane, Danny Watts and Nick Leventis will have to get acclimatised to the circuit quickly though, as the trio have no prior experience at the 3.4-mile circuit.

“The simulator work we have done back at base is key for all three of us really,” says Kane. “We knew going into this season that the three of us hadn’t driven at Circuit Of The Americas (COTA) before, so being able to spend extensive time working on learning the track before the event has helped us get ready.

“Our sim enables us to go out at a new circuit, or a circuit we don’t know well and immediately have braking points and lines through corners to build off.”

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Strakka Racing founder Nick Leventis has spent time testing at the circuit before the weekend as extra preparation for the event this weekend, hoping to gain an advantage over the five other COTA rookies in the LMP2 class.

Since opening back in 2012, Circuit of the Americas has held rounds of Moto GP, Formula One, the Tudor United Sports Car Championship and X Games. Popular with drivers for its tricky undulations, COTA makes for some spectacular racing on its mixture of medium and low-speed corners.

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“I can’t wait to get on track,” says driver Danny Watts. “I’ve seen races at the track on TV and have always wanted to tackle that iconic hill leading to Turn 1; it looks steep on screen, so I can’t imagine what it’s like when you’re actually there driving!”

On-track action for the WEC teams runs from the 17th to 19th of September with the race starting 17:00 local time on the Saturday in Austin, Texas.