For gentleman race drivers, there’s not much that will cap burning around the Circuit de la Sarthe in the Le Mans 24hour race. ‘Behind the wheel, it’s where you want to be,’ says driver and founder of Strakka Racing Nick Leventis. For many motorsport-enthused gents, it’s the pinnacle of success – the realisation of a lifelong dream and the chance to follow in the tyre marks of racing legends like Graham Hill, Jacky Ickx, and Derek Bell. At the Le Mans 24 Hours this weekend, we went behind the pit wall to speak with gentleman driver turned Le Mans veteran Nick Leventis of the all-British racing team Strakka Racing.
Strangely enough, ‘it all started with skiing,’ says Leventis. On the slopes is where he learned the art of competition. ‘I’ve been addicted to adrenaline ever since,’ he adds with a smile. But Leventis’ skiing career wasn’t meant to be. ‘I had a big accident on the slopes when I was 23, which forced me to take a different path.’ Growing up a stone’s throw from Silverstone circuit – now the home of the 6 Hours of Silverstone endurance race – it was this, combined with his father’s passion for classic cars, which encouraged Leventis to take an interest in motorsport. ‘I discovered many similarities between skiing and racing. For example, hitting the apex of a corner in a car requires the same focus and control as it does on skis.’
Cutting his teeth on the circuit in the world of historic racing, Leventis quickly moved on to endurance racing with his Le Mans debut in 2008 in no less than an Aston Martin DBR9 GT1 – the track version of Aston’s iconic DB9. ‘Around the same time, I set up Strakka Racing.’ Originally formed as a platform for Levantis to compete in GT racing, Strakka has since expanded into developing younger talent through various performance programmes. ‘I wanted to give back what I’d learnt about competing. I spotted a gap in the market for training top-level, young talent.’
Now with a bustling crew around him and two other drivers – Danny Watts and Jonny Kane –Levantis and team Strakka just missed out on the podium (4th place) in their category in the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend. Competing in the LMP2 category – that stands for Le Mans Prototype 2 – Leventis and his team placed ahead of fellow British teams Greaves Motorsport and Manor after no less than 24 hours of non-stop racing. A challenge indeed considering the cost of stuffing it up is more than just a call to an insurer.
Far from retiring, ‘there are a few miles left in me yet,’ says Leventis, as he continues to lead Strakka onto new developments both on and off track. The future looks bright for this plucky all-British racing outfit but we’ll soon find out how they fair against the motorsport legends of Le Mans.
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