Striving for Strakka: Part 1

New Strakka Racing team manager Dan Walmsley spoke to Sniffer Media before the fly away FIA World Endurance Championship races about his role in the team and the 2012 HPD package.

Who is Dan Walmsley?

Dan Walmsley is the Team Manager for Strakka Racing. He has been involved in motorsport for almost ten years working for a variety of teams in A1 GP (Brazil and Ireland included), LMP, World Series by Renault and GP2. Dan worked for Strakka Racing as an engineer from 2010 until July 2012, when he was promoted to Team Manager. He is also a tutor on the MIA’s School of Race Engineering.

Dan Walmsley confers with Nick Leventis – Photo by Jakob Ebrey

Dan lives in Silverstone village with his wife Hannah. He is the son of Andrew Walmsley, who was MD of McLaren Automotive between 1999 and 2003.

The Season So Far

Dan Walmsley: “We committed to the Honda LMP1 package quite early last year but with Honda and Wirth Research optimising the package it was late coming together and we were finishing the build of the car at Sebring and that event is not one where you want to be doing your first real test at. So we arrived at a tough circuit which we did not have a lot of experience on and it was a difficult week for us. We certainly weren’t as fast as we should have been at Sebring but we are lucky in that we have a great crew at Strakka that prepared a reliable car and we finished 2nd in the privateer class which gave us some good points.

“We then had a detailed review of the situation and went in to Spa with much more of an understanding of the car after going through all the data that we collected from Sebring. The car was certainly much more competitive at Spa and we were just a few tenths off the Rebellion Lola-Toyotas in qualifying. We again came away with a privateer podium in the race so that gave us some confidence to attack Le Mans.

“At Le Mans we had a new tyre compound which was a key area that we had been lacking so far in the season both in durability and outright pace. This enabled us to take the fight to the Rebellions in qualifying and we came out on top beating them in the unofficial privateer/petrol battle.

“The disappointment at Le Mans was that with our inherently reliable package we were troubled by two separate incidents in the race; one at the start when we had a gearbox oil leak which cost us about 23 minutes and then later in the race we had a water pressure leak which meant that we couldn’t do more than a few laps at a time without risking the engine, so we waited for the last few laps to take the chequered flag and get a finishing position (8th in LMP1).  We also set the fastest lap by a petrol LMP at Le Mans during the week when Danny (Watts) did a 3m29.622s lap in qualifying. But ultimately to come from 56th and 23 mins behind up to 7th place at one stage shows that we have the consistency and pace to be the best after the works cars.

“So it has been quite difficult so far but we are very confident that we have a reliable and quick package especially now with the tyre compound we have and the set-up understanding that we acquired.

The HPD chassis

DW: “Everyone assumed that we would come out of the box flying because we knew the HPD package but this is an all-new car and there are no carry over parts from the 01C HPD chassis, the previous version of the car. It’s a different aerodynamic package, different weight distribution, different tyres, so everything was very new to us. There was a sense of all the HPD customers working together in some ways on the run up to Sebring. There were inevitable build issues that come with an all-new project, so at that stage there was not a lot of performance engineering that went in to the car. We did a three day test at Aragon in Spain and found a lot of set-up improvements there before we headed to Spa. As a chassis the 03a is a fantastic engineering tool and it responds superbly to changes and does what you want it to. It carries a good amount of aero with very little drag and it’s really the ideal privateer car.”

Leventis in the Strakka HPD at Le Mans – Photo by Jakob Ebrey

The Honda Engine

DW: “In terms of hardware the engine is the same as we ran it in 2010. It is a 3.4litre V8 that has a very healthy amount of power. We can’t divulge what the figures are but the main difference between 2010 and now is the restrictor from LMP2 to LMP1 spec so the mid-range torque and power is very similar but at the top end where the engine is crying for more air it makes a nice difference and pulls to a very good rpm. The main technical advantage that we think we have with the engine is that there is a huge flexibility on fuel maps and we can lean the engine off really quite a long way without damage to reliability or performance and it allows us to really stretch our legs on stint times and for the engineering team that gives us a lot of imagination when it comes to race strategy.

“We have looked at fitting a KRS system on to the car in conjunction with the Wirth Research team and Honda but at this stage in the programme it was disregarded purely down to commercial reasons. But with the 2014 regulations there is a leaning towards KERS and Hybrid technology we need to be familiar with it so we are keeping our options open.

Relationship with Wirth Research

DW: “We are very lucky in practical terms as we are just about 12miles apart in where we are based. We utilise a lot of Wirth’s analysis tools such as their Aero/CFD capacity and also their driver in-the-loop simulator which of course means we do not have to put so much emphasis on physical track testing.

“We also maintain a close relationship with HPD in the US. Between the triangle of ourselves, Wirth and HPD we have a very strong technical foundation with all the engineering facilities we could wish for.”

Nick Wirth with Danny Watts at Le Mans – Photo by Jakob Ebrey

Preparing for the remainder of the FIA World Endurance Championship season

DW: “We have spent the time since Le Mans getting ready for a very busy period where we have five races in a row between end of August and November (Silverstone, Interlagos, Bahrain, Fuji and Shanghai). Normally we will rebuild the car ground up immediately after the event but with so many races and logistics involved we will not be able to do that from Silverstone onwards. So we have been honing procedures at the factory where we can keep the right mileages on the right components, swapping components around and schedule everything very, very carefully. So it has very much been a case of project planning rather than going out testing the car and optimising our parts usage so we are not over-exerting any particular part on the car.”

Sniffer Media will be catching up with Dan shortly to get the inside line on how the Silverstone based team’s season ended.

Strakka Racing – Key Staff

Team Principal – Nick Leventis (GB)

Team Manager – Dan Walmsley (GB)

Race Engineer – Jonathan Moury (BEL)

Crew Chief – Karl Patman (GB)

Chief Mechanic – Paul Stevens (GB)

Drivers: Nick Leventis (GB), Jonny Kane (GB), Danny Watts (GB)

Strakka Racing HPD ARX-03a Tech Spec

Vehicle type: Le Mans Prototype (“LM” P1)

Monocoque:Carbon-fibre composite construction

Engine: AR6-LMV8, 3.4-litre normally aspirated port injection HPD V8, 4 valves per cylinder, DOHC, dry sump

Fuel: unleaded 100 Octane E10 gasoline

Engine management systemContinental / HPD ECU system

Power: 600bhp

RPM limit:  10,400rpm

Ignition system: CDI

rear-wheel drive

Traction control: fuel and spark

Clutch:AP Pull Type carbon

Gearbox:Hewland six-speed with electro-mechanical sequential shift

Differential:Hewland Salisbury

Driveshafts:Constant velocity tripod plunge-joint driveshafts

Electronically controlled power steering (rack and pinion)

Suspension:Independent front and rear double-wishbone suspension, pushrod-system with Dymancis dampers

Brakes:Dual-circuit hydraulic braking system, mono-block light-alloy brake calipers, front and rear ventilated carbon fibre brake discs, driver adjustable brake-balance

Wheels:BBS magnesium forged wheels

Tyres:Michelin radial, front: 33-68-18 (330mm wide), rear: 37-71-18 (370mm wide)

Length: 4650mm

Width: 2000mm

Height: 1025mm

Minimum weight:900kgs

Fuel tank capacity:80 litres

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