After a few setbacks that prevented the car from taking part in the championship in 2014, the Strakka-Dome S103 made its long-awaited public debut during last weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship pre-season Prologue test at Paul Ricard.
The Anglo-Japanese prototype proved to be one of the positive stories from the two-day test, having set competitive lap times, with team principal Dan Walmsley pleased to see the program finally take the next crucial step forward.
“We’re delighted to be here at long last and it’s a shame that it’s taken longer than we anticipated,” Walmsley told Sportscar365. “I think it was always an ambitious project. Perhaps some of that ambition got in the way of the debut.
“But we’re really keen to make sure the car is correct before we debut it and we’ve done that now. Honestly, we could have done that in Brazil if for not the little headrest problem.
“It’s probably slightly more prologued than it should have been but nevertheless we’re really proud.”
While the Nissan-powered LMP2 car heads into the start of the season with considerable mileage under its belt, having accumulated more than 10,000 kms since its first rollout early last year, testing and racing can often mean two different things.
Added to that is the fact that the Silverstone-based squad, or its three longstanding drivers Danny Watts, Jonny Kane and Nick Leventis haven’t competed as a team since the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2013, where it claimed LMP1 Privateer class honors.
Despite the unexpected downtime, Walmsley has set high ambitions for both the car and the team this year in the globe-trotting championship.
“We want to win races,” he said. “But we really need to get our racing heads back on. It’s quite easy to forget that Le Mans 2013 was the last time we raced. It’s coming up on 20-ish months, which is incredible.
“So things like pit stop procedures and general operational things.. We really want to iron those deficiencies out in the first few events and hopefully carry some good reliability forward where we can be challenging for races in the second half of the season.”
While being one of the few single-car efforts in the revitalized LMP2 class this year, Strakka nearly had a second entry finalized, but was caught out at the last minute.
Instead, their focus on team expansion will take a back seat until 2016.
“We were honestly minutes from having a deal together for the second car for this year,” Walmsley said.
“It got to the entry deadline where we had to pay the entry fees, which is a large amount of money for any race team to pay not knowing that you’ve got the contract signed. So we just missed out this year.
“The proposed regulations for 2017 is going to make it more challenging for us if we’re not going to be selected as a manufacturer for 2017. But we’re still speaking with customers and we’re keen to work with people.”
As an organization that has made the transformation from a privateer team into a manufacturer-backed effort, Walmsley has mixed feelings over the current proposal to limit the number of LMP2 constructors to four beginning in 2017.
“[The regulations] are not defined at the moment but I believe LMP2 can cope with more than four manufacturers,”he said.
“Clearly there’s been a long period of consultation on this with teams and manufacturers included. Therefore we have to sit back and see what the organizing bodies will do. I’m hopeful they’ll make the decision.
“We’ve put a lot of energy and effort into this car and this was really a transition part of a journey towards becoming something for 2017 when we knew the regulations would change.
“What we didn’t realize was that they were going to restrict the number of manufacturers.”
He confirmed Strakka-Dome will be making a bid through the yet-to-be-announced tender process for prospective constructors, which should be defined in the coming weeks.
However, should they not secure a license, Walmsley said he wouldn’t rule anything out, although not directly confirming an interest in LMP1, a category both Dome and Strakka most recently we a part of.
“Strakka has always maintained that we’re here for the long run so we’d find the right category and the right form for us to go race in,” Walmsley said.
“We always race with a high level of intensity but with a smile on our face and a spring in our step. That’s what we’ll continue to do.”