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Strakka Racing’s 2016 Column: Williamson On His Big Chance

Lewis Williamson discusses the significance of his WEC debut

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 fourth column, filed this time by driver Lewis Williamson, who will be making his WEC debut with the team in place of Danny Watts at the Nürburgring:

Well, I still can’t really believe it. I knew that joining Strakka Racing in attendance of all the FIA WEC rounds early in the season would be a good for my career, but I didn’t expect it to present me with an opportunity to drive for the team in the world championship.

I was at home gardening when I received the call from Dan (Walmsley) which could well define my 2016 season. It kept me on the high after my experience of being with the team at La Sarthe.

Learning Le Mans

As part of being with Strakka I got to attend the Le Mans 24 Hours and soak it up. It was beyond incredible, and that’s coming from someone who has been in paddocks at Formula One events. The atmosphere is unique and just seeing the cars and the level of talent there was eye-opening.

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Strakka had a great run at the race too. The team prepared the car superbly, it ran smoothly and Nick (Leventis) really upped his game, keeping the Gibson in the hunt.

It’s tough to miss out on a podium, but really, in an aging car, finishing fourth was a real achievement.

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I think with a race like the Le Mans 24 Hours, which is all about managing energy levels, getting to know how the week works and what to expect will be key if and when I race there myself.

I joked with the guys when we left the paddock for the last time that next time I go to Le Mans I’ll be driving, and to be honest, after this week, maybe I can demonstrate to the WEC paddock I am ready to race there.

Taking the opportunity

Obviously it’s harder for Danny (Watts) to step aside at this round, I’ve had to do the same.

We are racing drivers and we want to be driving at every opportunity. I have now got to take this chance and make the most of it. I’ve always had the goal of being a professional racing driver, and with little to no financial advantages from my background, it’s been hard. I put a ton of pressure on myself, but I need to, as I will do anything to achieve my goal.

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It’s going to be a real challenge to jump into a class as competitive as LMP2 a few rounds into a championship, with very little experience in the car but at least I know the Nürburgring.

Familiar ground

The good thing about joining the team just after Le Mans is that the pressure of the big race is off, and I get to make my debut at the circuit I’ve driven at before.

I raced at the ‘Ring back in GP3 a few years ago, so it’s going to take a bit of getting used to, but at least I know my way round. The Nürburgring is a great circuit, it’s always really close and we know that the Gibson can go well their after the test last year.

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I’m doing all the training I can before I head out there to make sure that I am in the best possible shape, and have done everything possible to ensure all the off-track tasks at the race run smoother.

Obviously there’s the pressure to perform, as I know that If I do well I have more of a chance to factor into the team’s plans going forward outside of the Renault R.S.01 programme.

Relishing the Renault experience

Speaking of the Renault programme, it’s been great so far. The format is pretty much perfect, with lots of track time and one solo race and one endurance race with your teammate at each round.

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The car after extensive use is not only reliable, but extremely fun to drive and quick also. Sitting second in the championship is a really good place to be, especially as there’s some really quality drivers on the grid.

But the focus really is on the Nürburgring, I’ve got top nail it and show that the team believing in me wasn’t a mistake.

Bring on the ‘Ring!