Strakka Racing has announced its driver squad for its inaugural Blancpain GT Series campaign in 2017. The 14-strong roster is set to feature a mixture of experience and youth, with McLaren GT factory and Driver Academy drivers making up the foundation in its quartet of 650S GT3s.
Team founder Nick Leventis and 2016 Strakka WEC driver Lewis Williamson share a 650SGT3 in the Sprint Cup and will be joined by Craig Fleming as the sole Strakka Pro-Am entry in the Endurance Cup. In his seventh year in a Strakka car, new McLaren factory driver Jonny Kane shares the second Sprint category entry with Academy driver Loris Hezemans.
In the Endurance Series, Kane’s teammates are Academy driver David Fumanelli and GT convert Sam Tordoff. For Tordoff, the Blancpain drive fulfils a dream to compete outside of the UK and race at the iconic European tracks such as Spa and Paul Ricard along with his new British GT campaign with Barwell.
“For some time I’ve longed to expand my racing outside of the UK,” said 2016 BTCC runner up Tordoff. “I haven’t ever been to Monza so 2017 is going to be an amazing adventure for me. Being able to do that in a McLaren with Strakka, a team I know very well, is a fantastic way to fulfil those aspirations.”
2016 Bathurst winner and McLaren factory driver Alvaro Parente will partner newly-recruited GT Academy driver and F3 convert Ben Barnicoat in the third Sprint Cup entry. As part of his Academy development programme Barnicoat will also undertake a full season in the Endurance Cup, drawing on the extensive McLaren experience of his factory team mates Rob Bell and French race-winner Côme Ledogar with whom he will share driving duties in the three-hour races.
Reigning Endurance champion Bell, will be aiming to go one better than his second place in the 2016 overall Blancpain standings as he shares the fourth Sprint entry alongside Academy driver Andrew Watson. In the fourth Endurance Cup entry, Watson is joined by the exciting prospect of new McLaren factory driver and former F2 champion Dean Stoneman.
Stoneman whose only GT experience was a single season in Carrera Cup in 2013, returns to European racing after a year competing in Indy Lights.
“I’m looking forward to this fresh challenge with McLaren,” says Stoneman. “The 650S is a great car to drive; it’s agile and gives good feedback which I like. Learning about the car has been really enjoyable but now it’s about doing the best possible job I can for the team.”
The duo will be joined by 2016 Silverstone Blancpain winner and Endurance Cup runner-up Jazeman Jaafar, the Malaysian driver switching from an AMG Mercedes for 2017. Jaafar has also been confirmed as a late addition to McLaren GT’s Driver Academy roster.
“We are delighted to have secured such a formidable and impressive line-up of successful and talented drivers for Strakka’s debut in what is arguably the most competitive GT series in the world,” says team founder Nick Leventis.
“Running four cars is a significant step up but the entire team together with McLaren GT have worked superbly to get all the cars prepared and racking up testing miles ahead of the season start. We’ve enjoyed getting to grips with our move to GTs but now’s the time to get racing and deliver on our aim to continue McLaren’s success in the category.”
The 2017 Sprint Cup is set to get underway on the 1st-2nd of April at the Italian circuit Misano, with the Endurance Series starting at Monza three weeks later.