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Strakka Racing’s 2016 Column: The Calm Before The Storm

Danny Watts talks Le Mans Test Day and the incredible LMP2 field at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours

Strakka Racing is posting columns on DSC, written by some of its key personalities throughout the 2016 FIA WEC season. The longstanding British sportscar team is competing once again with a Gibson 015S in the LMP2 class, and will be sharing some of its experiences throughout the year.

Here’s Strakka’s second column, filed this time by driver Danny Watts, one of the most experienced personalities in the WEC paddock, competing in his eighth Le Mans this weekend:

When I started my career, I could only dream of competing in the big three races: the Le Mans 24 Hours, Indy 500 and Monaco GP. I’ve driven at Monaco in Supercup, and I’m about to embark on my eighth Le Mans.

A record grid

It’s an incredible field this year, I’ve never seen anything like it. For us, we’re part of the last ride of the Gibson in the class, which is great. After a rough time at Spa we feel prepared for the challenge that Le Mans presents. The car should be reliable and with the weather looking changeable, anything can happen.

wec-2016-spa-race-01

As a driver, looking down the entry list is quite an eye-opening experience, the WEC field in itself is great, but with entries from IMSA, Asia and the ELMS it’s as strong as its ever been. While it’ll be sad to see the variety disappear in the class after this year, I think the WEC officials are taking it in the right direction.

For now though, there’s 23 cars and it looks like the class to watch, game on!

Testing

The Le Mans Test Day was crucial for us, because we needed to get up to speed with the Gibson here. What do I takeaway from it? Not too much… The Orecas look set to dominate on pace, but a 24 as everyone knows, is so much more than that. It doesn’t faze us; a Gibson finished second last year, we know what we can achieve if everything goes right.

For us we just stuck to our plan and worked out what works setup wise. It’s just a shame that we lost so much time because of the Shank car’s incident, it was hard for us to all get our laps in and get comfortable.

Nick Leventis / Danny Watts / Jonny Kane - Strakka Racing Gibson 015S-Nissan

The track itself was very grippy by the time I got in at the end of the morning session, and I really enjoyed my runs. One thing I did notice though is that the changes down at Indianapolis have made a difference. The surface feels better, but the reference points have changed because of the fire removing some of the trees. I had to use the standard marker boards as my braking points.

There’s been a lot of talk about the pace of the GTEs, and to be honest I’ve had no issues with negotiating the traffic. They are very fast bits of kit, but if you’re patient you can get round them with no issues. Down the straights they are so quick, but through the corners the P2s still have the advantage.

Turning the season around

If there’s ever a race which can change the complexion of a season, it’s the Le Mans 24 Hours if you’re part of the WEC. We had the pace at Silverstone but didn’t get the result, struggled for pace at Spa and retired, but honestly feel confident that we can make something happen here.

As a team we know how to win this one, and we know what we need to worry about and what we don’t. During this early part of the week it’s key to relax and use the time between sessions wisely to ensure that you’re fresh.

Danny Watts - Strakka Racing Gibson 015S-Nissan

Double points are available here, so we know just how important this is from a championship point of view.

For now though, the key is to enjoy this, this is Le Mans, the greatest race in the world, soaking it in, and getting in the car a clear head can make the difference between standing on that podium or having a troubled run.

With the on track action about to start, let battle commence.