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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Leventis Optimistic of Improved McLaren Pace at Spa

Leventis attributes issues to tires, BoP; confident of improvements at Spa…

Photo: McLaren GT

Nick Leventis has attributed Strakka Racing’s string of problems so far this season to troubles with the new Pirelli tire compound and Balance of Performance but is hopeful of an improved showing in this weekend’s Total 24 Hours of Spa.

The Strakka founder and driver says several factors out of the team’s control have been the cause of incidents and slow pace that have plagued the team’s four McLaren 650S GT3s so far this season.

The team is yet to break into the top-five, with a best finish so far of sixth in the Brands Hatch Qualifying Race, with the No. 58 car driven by Ben Barnicoat and Alvaro Parente, while its best Endurance Cup position has been eighth at Silverstone, after numerous retirements.

“Firstly, there have been some internal problems within McLaren GT that unfortunately we have no control over and as a customer we’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of issues,” he told Sportscar365.

“Secondly, with the new Pirelli tire and the BoP, we’ve been on the wrong end of it. This has been addressed far more seriously in recent weeks, and we’re going into this round far more confident that we’ll be where we need to be.

“It has been a learning curve internally, but we’re not passing the blame whatsoever and I’m always happy to hold my hand up and admit where we haven’t been performing and delivering as well as we can be.

“In this instance, I’m 100 percent certain that there have been issues that have been out of our control.”

The new Pirelli P Zero DHD tire compound for this season has proven controversial with other manufacturers picking up punctures, most notably Lamborghini.

Leventis says the tire has affected the McLarens differently, which have been unable to adapt sufficiently.

“We haven’t been qualifying where we need to, certainly in the Sprint rounds, and we’ve been struggling to get into the top 20,” he explained. “With the same drivers that were driving last year, there’s no reason for that.

“The level hasn’t suddenly increased to an extent whereby we shouldn’t qualify in the top 20. The only other variable that has changed is the Pirelli tire, and the car isn’t adaptable as some of the other manufacturers.

“If we look at direct data between this year and last year, we lose about half a second, mainly under braking. That’s just in the nature of the tire compounds.

“[Other manufacturers] have had issues with punctures but not overall pace. We haven’t had too many punctures, we had one, but all the issues we’ve had have been from contact with people.”

Another issue caused by the difficulty of the tires has been that the McLarens have been starting races mid-pack, leaving them more prone to incidents in the early stages of the races, Leventis believes.

“If we qualify where we should do, at the front, I think you’d find the results would be very different,” he said.

“For sure it’s a bit of bad luck, but if you qualify in the mid-pack, you’re going to increase your chances of being involved in an incident, especially in Blancpain GT.”

Despite the problems that have plagued the team’s season so far, Leventis is confident the McLarens will have better pace for the 24-hour race, with the team benefitting from a BoP break.

“This is an issue that there’s no immediate fix to, but in the last few weeks we’ve been working very closely with the SRO and the BoP guys and we’ve for sure made some progress,” he said.

I’m very confident that you’ll see us far more nearer the sharp end, where we normally are, in this round.”

Vincent Wouters contributed to this report

Jake Kilshaw is a UK-based journalist. He is a graduate of Politics and International Relations.

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