Strakka Racing battled cold and wet conditions at the 3H of Monza to finish 22nd in the opening round of the 2019 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, held at Monza Eni Circuit, Italy, on 14 April 2019. The trio of Dev Gore, Lewis Williamson and Jack Hawksworth were running as high as 12th place when the #43 Mercedes-AMG GT3 suffered a puncture and was then caught behind the safety car during an incident-filled race.
The team overcame damage in Saturday’s Free Practice session for Williamson to show promising pace and set a fastest lap time of 1:48.230 in Pre-Qualifying to put Strakka Racing 13th on the timing sheets. However, following heavy rainfall overnight, Sunday’s Qualifying sessions were held on a saturated race track, resulting in numerous stoppages as conditions worsened, with the session finally being cancelled with three minutes still remaining. The combined times from Williamson, Gore and Hawksworth resulted in the #43 Mercedes-AMG GT3 securing 22nd place on the grid.
The 3H of Monza began behind the safety car due to the abhorrent weather, with spray and cold temperatures making traction tricky. Williamson started the race and was strong off the line, moving up three places to run in 19th before the first of many full course yellow flags. After a consistent run, Gore took over driving duties at the one-hour mark. As the track started to dry on the racing line, lap times fell and Gore climbed as high as 12th in the order when he suffered a puncture. Losing positions, he was forced to pit ahead of schedule and hand over to Hawksworth, who was then held in the pits to ensure he didn’t exceed the 65-minute maximum drive time during the final stint.
Due to the lost time, the car was running in 26th when it re-joined the field, before another full course yellow resulted in a safety car restart. This picked up Hawksworth as he tried to catch the rest of the field, increasing the gap to his rivals ahead. At the restart, he improved to 25th place and inherited a further two places due to damaged cars ahead, before closing in on the #72 Ferrari and gaining another position to cross the finish line in 22nd place.
Dev Gore: “We showed really strong pace, which was especially positive considering the early set-backs that limited our running in practice. We lucked out with the weather change and the qualifying result wasn’t where we wanted to be, but our race pace was good and we were able to work our way up towards the front. We got a left-rear puncture during my stint just before the pit window, which meant that not only did we lose places on the track, but we had to wait in the pits before releasing Jack for the third stint, so that was a lot of time lost. But given where we started and the result, I’m impressed and really proud of the team for the excellent job in getting the car ready between sessions. I’m really happy that we had the pace to be running as far forward as we were given our P22 starting position, even though we didn’t get the final result. I think we could have been up the very front fighting for the top spots had we not got the puncture, but hopefully we’ll come back with some luck on our side to get the job done at Silverstone.”
Jay Davenport, Strakka Racing Director: “With today’s pace, it is a disappointing result for the team, as everyone worked so hard to get the car out on track and up into a strong position fighting for points. Today’s action was marred by the timing of the puncture and we were unlucky to be caught in the position we were during the safety car period, which increased the gap and put us at a disadvantage for the final stint. All three drivers did a fantastic job in their respective drives. Our pace was strong and things could have been very different had Jack got the opportunity to chase down those ahead in the final hour. However, we’re pleased with the performance of the #43 for its first outing of the season and feel positive for improved results during the season.”
The next round of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup takes place at Strakka’s home circuit of Silverstone, UK, on 11-12 May 2019.