B12hr chat: Strakka on Bathurst

THEY ARE a top endurance racing outfit with success in some of the world’s biggest races – and in 2018 Strakka Racing will tackle the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour for the first time.

Bathurst12hour.com.au touched base with Jay Davenport, Strakka’s Racing Director, about the challenge that awaits in February next year and how the team plans to tackle one of the toughest GT races in the world.

B12hr: What do you know of the Bathurst 12 Hour – anything stand out from what you have seen so far, from afar?

Jay: Bathurst is a legendary venue and is one of those circuits you really want to go and compete at. Personally, my memories of the place hark back to watching the Super Touring car races in the late 90s on TV. With regards to the 12 Hour race, it has in recent years built up a reputation as one of the GT races that teams really want to win.

The race enjoys a very competitive field with good machinery and very capable drivers.

Aside from the history, we’ve started to get to grips with some of the unique aspects of the event. There are different regulations to get our heads around; for example, we can use two wheel guns and three crew so we’ll have to adopt and practice a new specific pitstop choreography. It’s going to be a genuinely new challenge for everyone.

Bathurst is world renowned – give some thoughts about adding that circuit to the list of famous places the team has competed.

Without a doubt we would view Bathurst as one of the highlights of the year and it was a deciding factor when we were looking at competing in the IGTC (Intercontinental GT Challenge).

We are all really looking forward to heading there. No one at Strakka has done a race event in Australia so it’s going to be a fresh challenge at an incredible venue.

From an engineering point of view, it’s unique. You want max downforce in The Mountain section but that’s a trade off for speed on the Conrod Straight. That’s part of the appeal, it’s a new challenge for drivers, engineers and mechanics.

Bathurst is a notoriously difficult circuit to master: What sort of preparations can you make before coming here – simulators? Watching past races?

You are right, it appears a difficult circuit and one to respect. Our team of engineers is starting to create a well-structured and efficient run plan for each car will hopefully help us maximise track time for the drivers who have never driven the circuit. We’ve already turned a few laps on the simulator and we’ve been analysing videos of recent races. There’s plenty of onboard footage of GTs and Touring Cars for us to review out there.

It will all help but we know very well not to underestimate the track as we know its reputation.

Strakka has formed a new relationship with AMG for 2018. The brand has had a strong record on the Mountain – tell us about that relationship, and the AMG GT3 in particular.

As you say, Mercedes-AMG has a proven record on The Mountain. We have been working hard over the last few months to define the correct direction for Strakka moving forward and with Mercedes-AMG we have found a great partner to work with to generate the strong results we at Strakka desire.

As we speak, the first chassis has just arrived at our workshops and it looks fantastic. It is beautifully put together and I must thank the team at Mercedes-AMG for pulling out all the stops to get a car to us this quickly.

The big question.. how do you think you’ll go next February?

We are under no illusions that we will be on a steep learning curve. As we have touched on, we have been doing the research to understand the differences in the regulations and we will continue to work hard over the coming months. We will have strong driver line ups, some with experience of racing at Bathurst and we are no strangers to endurance racing and we’ve a lot of knowledge within the team for this type of race. Make no mistake, we won’t be coming just to make up the numbers!

We’re assuming there’s been plenty of interest from drivers looking to be part of the program?

At this moment we have a number of experienced drivers signed and we will be making announcements in the coming weeks along with confirming who will be our two Mercedes factory drivers. We are really pleased with the interest from drivers in our programme.

Our sea freight leaves mid-December. That’s when we’ll ship around eight tonnes of kit including tyre ovens, wheels, garage boarding. Then in mid-January, the cars will leave by air-freight.

The race is a big event for AMG in Australia. We look forward to meeting AMG owners that are going to be at the event and giving them something to cheer about.