A1 Team GBR’s Danny Watts could soon be leaving open-wheel racing behind after signing with sports car team Strakka Racing for the full Le Mans Series 2009 season.
While a secure drive in this prestigious series is excellent news for Watts, it does call into doubt his availability to continue piloting the A1GP car – something that will be a disappointment to fans hoping he could turn round a disrupted season start into a credible slot in the standings.
Watts is now set to be co-driving Strakka’s Ginetta-Zytek GZ09S with existing racers Peter Hardman and Nick Leventis and should also be the team’s third driver for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.
And it’s far from being his first encounter with the series. In 2007 he raced for Team LNT Panoz in the Le Mans 24 Hours before moving into prototypes, finishing fourth overall for Team LNT Zytek at Petit Le Mans. He rounded off the year with second in LMP2 in the final round of the Le Mans Series at Silverstone.
He again demonstrated impressive pace at Petit Le Mans in 2008, this time helping the GZ09S into the overall lead before finally taking the flag fourth in LMP1.
The driver is delighted with his deal: “I’ve raced the Ginetta-Zytek quite a few times, but it feels very gratifying to know I’ve now got a full season ahead of me.
“It’s going to be tough in LMP1, up against the diesels, but I know this is a great package — reliable and easy on the Michelin tyres — and I’m confident we will be very competitive.
“Peter and Nick will be quick team-mates, and there’s everything to play for in this season’s championship.”
He also got a ringing endorsement from Ginetta’s managing director Richard Dean: “Over time Danny has effectively become Ginetta—Zytek’s factory driver.
“His performance at Petit Le Mans, leading the factory efforts from Peugeot, Audi and Porsche, underlines his ability at this level. From A1GP to GT to LMP, Danny is not only experienced but one of the fastest and most accomplished British drivers around.
“We are delighted that he now has this chance at Strakka Racing – a forward-thinking, exciting and professional team who we believe will deliver the potential of the Ginetta—Zytek throughout 2009.”
Peter Hardman, Strakka team principal, added: “I’m delighted that Danny has agreed to do the deal and come and drive for us. He comes with an excellent reputation, and his previous history suggests he’s an exceptionally competent and talented driver.
“I’m confident he’ll be a huge asset to the team, and his experience with the Ginetta-Zytek will be particularly valuable.”
We’d agree with Dean’s assessment of Watts as one of the fastest and most accomplished British drivers around – and sportscars’ gain will be open-wheel racing’s loss.
The team now faces what it describes as “an intense schedule of testing” before the first round of the Le Mans Series in April, beginning with two days at the new AutÃ³dromo Internacional do Algarve circuit in Portugal next week.
This would suggest that the likelihood of Watts being available for the remaining rounds of the A1GP season has diminished considerably.
Nevertheless, we’re delighted to hear he’s found a secure drive and wish him all the best for the 2009 season – and we may even keep an eye on what he’s up to, sportscars or not.