Photo: Strakka Racing

Strakka Racing switches to Blancpain GT with McLarens

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After cutting short its FIA World Endurance Championship campaign with its venerable but now retired open-top Gibson 015S Nissan prototype due to engine problem, Strakka Racing will move to the McLaren 650S GT3 car it will run in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup in 2017.

At least (!) a four-car program is on-tap for the Nick Leventis-founded, Dan Walmsley-led operation.

The team’s release is below:

Established British sports car team Strakka Racing has forged a substantial long-term partnership with McLaren GT, the GT race car division of McLaren Group to be its latest customer race team. The Silverstone-based squad will expand to field a minimum four-car assault under the Strakka Racing banner to defend the 2017 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup in which McLaren GT secured both drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles earlier this year. Underlining Strakka Racing’s intentions from the beginning, is the confirmation that one of the four-cars will host 2017 McLaren GT Academy Drivers.

“Creating this partnership with such an esteemed brand as McLaren is, for me, the most exciting chapter and proud moment in Strakka’s ten year history,” says team founder Nick Leventis.

“We are now working with one of the most successful and prestigious GT3 manufacturers with a commitment to build a long term future together. Alongside the opportunity to work closely with a manufacturer such as McLaren GT and join its portfolio of winning customer teams challenging for race victories and championships, we will also support the development of McLaren GT’s Academy Driver program via our Strakka Performance and Simulation programs.

“Nurturing young talent is something Strakka has always been passionate about and this partnership will enable us to use our resources to help such drivers develop. As we know first-hand, aspiring drivers face difficulties raising budgets to compete on the single seater ladder and more and more are turning to GTs.”

“It’s great to have Strakka Racing on board and we look forward to seeing it hit the ground running with a comprehensive winter test program,” says McLaren GT’s managing director Andrew Kirkaldy.

“It has demonstrated its ambition from the outset with its hunger to win in one of the world’s toughest-contested championships such as the Blancpain GT Series, which is exactly what we hope for when approached by new customers. There is a real depth of talent in its engineers and pit crew, and it has proven itself in car preparation and pit-stop competitiveness, which coupled with its off-track infrastructure fits perfectly within the Blancpain GT Series arena.”

Driver line-ups for Strakka’s cars will be defined after a series of track tests later in 2016. “We aim to test a range of drivers including giving young talent an opportunity to show what they can do,” says Strakka’s team principal Dan Walmsley.

“We’d like to offer a number of junior single seater drivers the opportunity to try a GT3 car and understand the potential it provides for a career. You’ve seen how effective Lewis Williamson has been making the switch to sports cars and he is revelling in the new challenge. We also want experienced drivers in the team, not only for performance but also as a benchmark for the Academy Drivers to work towards. Jonny Kane is driving better than ever and still one of the fastest guys in LMP2.”

The expansion sees Strakka Racing devote 2017 solely to GT3 racing; marking a return to its GT origins, a category where it started racing with BMWs a decade ago. The ambitious McLaren GT program also signifies that the team will not be in the World Endurance Championship next season but is already plotting a return at the earliest opportunity.

“The regs came too late to get a P1L (non-hybrid LMP1 car) car ready for 2017 and to stay in the championship next year would have meant acquiring a P2 car,” adds Walmsley. “It is a fantastic championship so expect to see us back racing there again.”

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).