Strakka Racing‘s #43 Pro car scored a fantastic second placed podium and the team secured a double-points finish with the #44 coming home seventh at today’s Suzuka 10 Hours, the third round of the 2018 Intercontinental GT Challenge.
Following races in Australia (Bathurst 12 Hours) and Europe (Spa 24H), the championship moved to Asia this weekend. The inaugural Suzuka 10 Hours, which also marked the Intercontinental GT Challenge’s first ever race in Japan, was held in searing heat and humidity and brought together top level GT3 entries from around the world for the first time as the circuit’s legacy endurance event transformed into the longest race format in its 47-year history.
In the Manufacturer’s battle, the points haul from today’s race, contributed to by the Strakka Racing #43 has promoted Mercedes into the lead of the standings by nine points, after the German marque had entered the weekend seven points behind Audi.
Car #43 (Pro, Mercedes-AMG Team Strakka Racing) – P2
Max Götz, Alvaro Parente, Lewis Williamson
One of Strakka Racing’s two AMG-supported entries, the #43 started Sunday’s race from 12th position after making it through to the qualifying Pole Shoot Out. A combination of measured and competitive driving, clever team strategy and slick pitstop work saw the Götz, Parente and Williamson trio move into a podium scoring third place as they entered the third hour, and they then gained a further position to second as they approached the four-hour mark. Thereafter, their position was relatively untroubled and the #43 came home in a strong second place, behind the winning #888 Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM entry, collecting 18 valuable championship points.
Car #44 (Pro, Strakka Racing) – P7
Maxi Buhk, Oliver Rowland, Adrien Tambay
The #44 started right behind its fellow Strakka Racing Pro car from 13th on the grid. After initially dropping back in the first hour, the Buhk/Rowland/Tambay combo soon started the fight back, steadily progressing through the 35-strong field. By the 2hr 30min mark they were up into a points scoring 10th position and, after jostling for position over the following few hours, were up to ninth by the sixth hour. Steady progress continued, with the #44 running as high as sixth just after the eight-hour mark and, as the chequered flag fell, Maxi Buhk brought the car home in seventh.
Car #42 (Pro-Am, Strakka Racing) – DNF
Nick Leventis, David Fumanelli, Felipe Fraga
Rounding off the trio of Strakka GT3’s going through to the Pole Shoot Out on Saturday, the #42 began the race from 20th position and set the third fastest Pro-Am lap in the final qualifying challenge. Nick Leventis, who came into the race looking to add further points to his Bronze Driver’s championship campaign after his podium last time out at the Spa 24 Hours, undertook driving duties for the first stint. Unfortunately, during the second stint, David Fumanelli was forced to retire the #42 just after the first hour due to a suspected mechanical issue with the gearbox.
Maxi Götz, #43: “It’s been so nice coming back to Japan for my second time racing at Suzuka. We worked hard on getting a good balance in practice and qualifying but we still changed the car before the race and it ended up the right decision because the race pace was really good and we could push and overtake and we caught up to within four or five seconds of the lead and secured the podium. I’m really proud of the whole team effort and the double podium for Mercedes today is very important for us and shows that the car has pure performance on track and is working well.”
Jay Davenport, Strakka Racing Director: “We’re thrilled to be on the podium at the inaugural Suzuka 10 Hours and to have such a result help take Mercedes into the lead of the Manufacturers’ Championship with just one race to go. Of course, we would have liked to have been on the top step, but to finish in second with the #43 after starting 12th is not a bad result at all and we are delighted that it was a Mercedes 1-2. To have the #44 collecting six points for seventh after beginning 13th is also a decent result so we leave this iconic circuit fairly satisfied. Yesterday in qualifying we placed higher in the Time Attack than the Pole Shoot Out, which left us with some work to do, but we had confidence in our ability to move forward and it was encouraging that all three of our cars reached the shootout. We’re, of course, very disappointed that we had to retire the Pro-Am car as we were confident we would have been in the hunt for a podium there; we will be investigating the issue we had with the gearbox, which we believe was mechanical. Overall it was a fantastic team performance with polished work from the drivers, pit crew and engineers all contributing to a day we can be proud of.”
The final round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge will be the Laguna Seca Raceway California 8 Hours on 28 October. Ahead of that, Strakka Racing will be in action for the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup season finale at Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain on 30 September.