British team Strakka Racing has today announced the end (for the moment) of its long-standing FIA World Endurance Championship programme and that it will switch to the Blancpain GT Series in 2017, entering a minimum of four McLaren 650S GT3s.

The Blancpain entry marks the start of a substantial long-term partnership between Strakka and McLaren GT which will focus on championship wins and talent development in European GT3 racing. To start, Strakka Racing aims to defend McLaren GT’s Blancpain Endurance Cup titles and attempt to win the Sprint Cup and Spa 24 Hours.

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One of the team’s four cars will be a McLaren Academy entry. “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.

“We will also support the development of McLaren GT’s Academy Driver programme via our Strakka Performance and Simulation programmes.

“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.”

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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 sportscars 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.”

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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 programme also signifies that the team will not be in the World Endurance Championship next season. “The regs came too late to get a P1L 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.”