Strakka Racing hasn’t given up on a potential entry into the LMP1 Privateer ranks for as early as next year, with the British squad still on the holdout for confirmation of the FIA and ACO’s proposed regulations overhaul to the prototype subclass.
Team principal Dan Walmsley, however, admits that a 2017 LMP1 program is currently “under threat” due to the timing, admitting the team could remain in the LMP2 ranks next year, but with a new-spec car as a stop-gap measure.
“One of the bigger picture things that we have to keep in mind at Strakka is the two big sponsors we brought on this year in Dell and Xero. They’re two technology partners, they both need the technology story and timeline,” Walmsley told Sportscar365.
“So we have a desire to be in P1. If we don’t make it in ’17, which isn’t conclusive, but if we don’t, it’s certainly not closing the book on it completely.
“It’s trying to make sure we do the job properly, and one of the things we learned from the Dome project was starting too late and rushing into a failed project, we’re not going to do that again.”
Walmsley said their business model would accommodate the purchase of a new LMP2 car, even if it’s just used for one season.
While the majority of current LMP2 cars will be grandfathered into 2017, Strakka’s Gibson 015S Nissan will not be eligible due to its open-top design.
“We don’t perceive it as a complete loss if we were to go [buy a new P2 car] because the manufacturers are obliged to bring spares to the circuit for you, so you don’t necessarily have to gear up for full spares packages,” he said.
“And the residual value of the car after a year will be quite good, so as a stopgap it’s certainly a possibility.”
Strakka’s initial plans to build a LMP1 car for 2017 were put on hold late last year when talk began of possible changes to the regulations, in an effort to close the performance gap to the factory hybrid-powered cars.
A working group involving the FIA, ACO as well as current and prospective LMP1 teams and manufacturers has been established, with proposals being put forward on potential changes to the technical regulations for next year.
It comes at a difficult time, as the LMP1 hybrid class is due for an overhaul in 2018, which will include new chassis regulations, with privateers pushing to retain its current chassis for at least the next few years.
“Our business model was around carrying forward the Dome [S103] monocoque, so we have to look at what’s there,” Walmsley said. “And if you look at people like Rebellion and ByKolles, they all want to carry forward their monocoques.”
Walmsley said they’ve already completed concept studies and have a detailed design of its proposed LMP1 car complete and remains hopeful of finding a solution to re-enter the top prototype ranks.
“There’s a lot of drive going on to find performance for the P1 [privateer cars] without increasing costs and without making it artificial,” he said.
“I think we have to respect that the manufacturers always have the right to be much faster because they’re spending way more money. It would be ridiculous if that wasn’t the case.
“But at the same time it needs to be something that the privateers can compete for and be on the coattails of the manufacturers.”
Some of the suggested ways to achieve that has been with more powerful engines and the even the potential use of DRS.
Walmsley could end up being one of the potential solutions, but only if it would give more downforce in the corners as the P1 Privateer cars are already the quickest in the sped traps.
“My fear is that that is not just something that could be integrated and bolted on to the current car,” Walmsley said of the potential addition of DRS.
“To be honest, there isn’t any free performance in the world. Anything you want to do. You want light weight? That means advanced materials. You want more power? That means more refined engine technologies.
“Everything costs money. So it’s about finding the right balance. Maybe it’s a combination of suggestions.
“We have to respect as well the message that’s trying to be put out. They want the hybrid cars to be perceived as having high fuel efficiency and so on, and they have. So therefore we can’t certainly go further into a race than a hybrid car because that creates the wrong message.
“It’s a very, very careful balance and I don’t envy their job. But we’re doing all we can to help them with suggestions and working groups.”