After what has been a simply dreadful week for LMP2 in the FIA WEC (and for that matter in TUSCC too!) the DSC Editor took some time out this morning to pop in to see the Strakka Racing boys to find out how the delayed Strakka Dome project is progressing.
With the decision taken to withdraw the S103 coupe from the first two races of the 2014 FIA WEC the first question was obvious, what went wrong?
“The reality is that this always was, and is still, a very challenging programme,” says Strakka Sportscar Team Manager Karl Patman.
“Challenging in terms of the timeframes we have given ourselves, and challenging because these cars, as others have found too, all new cars are very complex things, and very involved projects. The aim is clear, to put a car on track that is capable of racing and winning. We simply aren’t there quite yet.”
“We found an issue after our initial shakedown that kept us from attending the Prologue test and that cost us two good days of testing. When we did get to Paul Ricard last week (in a three day test shared with Toyota), a couple of other issues showed themselves which meant that whilst we could run, and we did so throughout the three days, we couldn’t race.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly Karl wasn’t going to be pushed on specifics, Strakka is, after all, a development partner for the new S103 in what is set to become an increasingly competitive marketplace in the coming months. What is clear from the car, now safely ensconced in the Strakka workshop, is that the car is being worked on in a calm and methodical way with no signs of panic whatsoever (pic below from earlier this year).
“Absolutely no panic,” confirmed Karl. “We found issues and determined that the right way to progress was to come back and find fixes. We are doing that pro-actively and aggressively and I believe we are making very good progress with confidence growing that the solutions are in sight. Optimism is high and everyone is raring to go racing. That is what Strakka is renowned for, for being real racers. It’s a level of the new maturity and responsibility within the team that we decided to say first, let’s sort the issues, test them, refine the car and race.”
There is clearly good engagement from Dome, with several of their Japanese staff in evidence emerging from meetings during my brief visit.
“Absolutely,” said Karl, “We’ve had between 2 and 4 of their guys here since the day the first chassis arrived. Their input is invaluable, and the quality of the data they have supplied has been excellent. Despite the limited running at speed to date, the data we are able to see from the real car compared to their predictive dataset has been spot on – That’s a great starting point to build on. It’s enabled us to have a lot of confidence in the package as a whole once the known issues are fixed.
“The car is proving to be an easy car to work on, that’s another fundamentally key selling point not just for us but also for the kind of customer teams that will be in the market for this car.
“The next stage, beyond integrating fixes to the issues, which we think will be sorted in days rather than weeks, is getting the car back on track for an intensive test and development process, getting mileage on the car, and more particularly on the critical components and the drivers too, in particular Nick (Leventis) who, as a Silver driver, will want time to adapt to what is a fundamentally different driving experience from the open-top prototypes he’s been more used to.”
Some of that prep has been made possible by the installation of Strakka’s new simulator.
The Base Performance supplied Strakka Performance tweaked facility features an interchangeable driver environment – When I arrived the sim was occupied by a single seater cockpit to support the Strakka World Series by Renault effort (which won at the first race of the season at Monza last weekend) and the Strakka Performance outfit, advanced driver coaching and driver development.
Less than 5 minutes later the single seater was replaced by the shapely coupe chassis that was last seen at the core of the Pescarolo Sport run Dome S102.5 LMP1 car, adjustable pedal box and all.
The tub’s seating and pedal position are the same as the new S103 LMP2 car providing an accurate working environment for the drivers. – The experience offered the opportunity to try out proved several things – Firstly that I have a much bigger arse than Nick Leventis, his seat insert surely not fit for human habitation, secondly, should I have needed reminding (which I don’t) that I have fists of pure ham! And thirdly that the drivers view from a contemporary coupe is far from optimum!
After a multi lap attempt at a Le Mans LMP2 lap record which ended both in abject failure and (should this have been the real thing) expensively, it was back to a discussion about the real car.
The obvious next question is whether, if testing goes well, there is any hope that the team might reconsider racing at Spa?
“We’re committed to putting this car onto the grid as soon as it is ready to race. Our estimation is that the test programme will take longer than a Spa entry would allow.
“It’s a tough decision for a team as competitive as we are to make but I think it’s the correct one.
“We have huge respect for this Championship and we don’t want to be there making up the numbers, nobody wants anyone to appear on an entry to do that. When we go racing we’ll be looking for results.”
For what it’s worth the workshop was a study in quiet industry, a couple of Strakka’s 20+ workforce busy with the LMP2 car, others dipping in and out of the meetings that are underway to sort out the current issues, and to get the car back out where they want it to be – On track!