Strakka Racing was left to wonder what might have been in the Le Mans 24 Hours when, having come from 56th and last at the beginning of the race to climb into a seventh, a water pressure problem forced its Honda Performance Development ARX-03a into the garage with just three hours to go.
But the supreme efforts of drivers Nick Leventis, Danny Watts and Jonny Kane and the entire team did not go unrewarded, as they returned to action to cross the finish line to score third placed points in the FIA World Endurance Championship for Privateers'.
Having enjoyed a completely trouble-free build-up to race day, dominating the top privateer category throughout Free Practice and Qualifying, an oil leak in the transmission system prevented the #21 HPD ARX-03a from taking its rightful seventh place on the grid. It took 22 minutes before Kane was able to join the race, six laps behind the leaders – but it received a massive cheer from the 70,000 British spectators, as the fighting bulldog spirit began an astonishing comeback.
The HPD ARX-03a was consistently the fastest privateer car out on track, and in parts its lap times were only surpassed by those of the leading works Audis.
The trio worked hard to move into the top ten but with five hours remaining, concerns began to grow about the car's water pressure. Eventually there was a fear that the car may stop out on track and the team not finish the race, so in order to prevent a DNF the car was parked in the garage for much of the final three hours – only returning to the track for Kane to take the chequered flag.
“Having detected an oil leak on the grid, lose over twenty minutes, start fifty-sixth and last and then to fight back to seventh was a fairy tale really,” team principal Piers Phillips said. “We had great pace, all three drivers drove magnificently and for a while it looked like a great finish was on the cards. All you can do at Le Mans is give it your best shot, which is what we did. The team was amazing in terms of the way it performed. Every pit stop was perfect, the small technical issues we had were dealt with and I'm very proud of the team; it's just a shame we couldn't give them the result they deserve.
“But we've taken the chequered flag – not in the way we wanted, but ironically it's given us the same amount of World Endurance Championship Privateers' Team points that we would have probably scored had we completed all twenty-four hours. We're all devastated right now, but we take an awful lot of positives away with us that will put us in good stead for the rest of the season.”