Mixed fortunes for local teams at Le Mans

The Strakka Racing Dome S103 was a retirement from Le Mans with gear selection problems
The Strakka Racing Dome S103 was a retirement from Le Mans with gear selection problems

Brackley’s Murphy Prototypes and Whittlebury’s Strakka Racing experienced contrasting fortunes in Sunday’s thrilling and drama-filled Le Mans 24-Hour Race.

The Brackley-based Greg Murphy-owned team endured a terrible start to their Le Mans adventure when a crash in Free Practise caused severe damage to the car, but they recovered well to battle to a creditable fifth place finish in the LMP2 class and 13th overall.

Strakka Racing, on the other hand, performed well throughout the week only to be cruelly prevented from finishing when a gear selection issue stranded their Strakka-Dome S103 at the side of the track with under six hours remaining.

The Murphy Prototypes Oreca 03R-Nissan was driven by Mark Patterson, Nathanael Berthon and former F1 racer Karun Chandhok. It was Patterson who was at the wheel when the car crashed during practice, but fine work by the Murphy team made sure that the car was race ready and a strong performance from all three drivers ensured the car was always within the top six runners in the LMP2 category.

Team principal Greg Murphy said: “We came here to win but we have also finished the greatest motor race in the world. I am extremely proud. They have dealt with everything that’s been thrown at them, not just during the past 24-hours, but the past week too.”

Karun Chandhok added: “It’s a hard race to finish and I am pleased for the whole team to have achieved it. Although we had a few problems, I think we may have only gained one place if we hadn’t. I think that as a team we are getting the best out of the car and therefore, this weekend represented a great effort all round.”

Strakka Racing provided the race with the only all-British driver line-up, headed by Thornborough’s highly-rated Danny Watts, who was joined by Jonny Kane and Stowe’s Nick Leventis.

The trio kept the Strakka Dome in class contention throughout and even managed to survive a collision with a Rebellion P1 prototype that caused considerable rear damage to maintain a strong track position.

The Strakka Dome was started by Kane, who after his stint handed driving duties over to Watts. With Leventis taking his turn at the wheel, the Strakka crew kept their rotations going until Sunday morning when the problems began.

Unable to select a gear, team owner Leventis found himself stranded on the track. With a Safety Zone issued by race control, he was pushed from the course by marshals, and the car subsequently retired at trackside.

Watts said: “It was a cruel way to end this race. We had enjoyed a really good run right up until that moment. We pushed really hard and just kept driving round and round to make sure we could maintain a good position.

“This is one of the greatest races in the world, and we have been very lucky with results here in previous years. Sadly this year we didn’t have luck on our side.”

Dan Walmsley, the Strakka Racing team manager, added, “This result is what what we wanted, and not what we came to Le Mans for. We have all worked so hard and we arrived here in our own car, one designed and built by us and we felt that we deserved some luck.

“I can say how proud I am of everyone who worked for the team at Le Mans, and now we look forward to the rest of the championship. Hopefully we will be back at Le Mans next year, when we will again fight for victory.”