MITCH EVANS AND RICHIE STANAWAY CHOSEN TO DRIVE LMP1 PROTOTYPES, WRITES COLIN SMITH
Two New Zealand racing drivers have landed end-of-season test opportunities in the latest generation of Le Mans prototype racers.
GP2 Series race winners Mitch Evans (Auckland) and Richie Stanaway (Tauranga) will drive the Porsche and Audi LMP1 hybrid machines respectively at Bahrain International Circuit on Sunday, November 22 — the day after the final race of the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship.
The test day is billed as a Rookie Test with the series promoter allocating a driver to each of the three LMP1 manufacturer teams. Evans will drive the Porsche 919 Hybrid and Stanaway gets his chance at the wheel of an Audi R18 e-tron quattro. Brit Sam Bird will drive the Toyota TS040 Hybrid.
While all three drivers have a strong record in the GP2 single seater series, they have been chosen by the promoter primarily because of performances in major endurance racing championships this year.
Each of the prototype manufacturers will test with at least one LMP1 car at Bahrain, and each of the drivers chosen will be given the opportunity to complete at least 30 laps. The LMP1 manufacturers may also use the time on track to test additional drivers if they wish.
Stanaway and Evans made their Le Mans 24 Hours debuts earlier this year. Evans’ performance with the JOTA Sport team included an LMP2 category victory at WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps followed by a runner-up finish at Le Mans in June.
Stanaway — who scored his second GP2 race victory in Russia on Sunday — has emerged among the elite of GT endurance drivers. He set the GTE-Pro class pole position and the fastest race lap at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year with Aston Martin Racing and also took a GTE-Pro class win at Spa-Francorchamps.
Richie Stanaway gets his chance at the wheel of an Audi R18 e-tron quattro. Picture / Drew Gibson
Also a race winner in the GP2 category, Bird has been competing during 2015 with G-Drive Racing in the WEC LMP2 category with three class wins and leads the championship with driving partners Julien Canal (France) and Roman Rusinov (Russia).
“This first Rookie Test is a fantastic opportunity for these three up-and-coming endurance drivers to test an LMP1 prototype, the most technologically advanced race cars in the world,” says Gerard Neveu, CEO of the World Endurance Championship.
“We looked in depth at drivers from within the world of endurance racing before making the selection, and believe that Sam Bird, Mitch Evans and Richie Stanaway fully deserve the opportunity to demonstrate their talent and potential.
“This Rookie Test will give drivers an added bonus to their season, and forms an important element in the progressive career path available within the endurance family.”
The test chance for Stanaway and Evans further strengthens Kiwi interest in international endurance racing. Palmerston North driver Brendon Hartley is now leading the FIA World Endurance Championship with Porsche teammates Mark Webber (Australia) and Timo Bernhard (Germany) following their third consecutive victory of the season at the 6 Hours of Fuji in Japan at the weekend.
The Hartley, Webber, Bernhard trio is one point ahead of Audi’s Andre Lotterer (Germany), Benoit Treluyer (France) and Marcel Fassler (Switzerland) with two FIA WEC races remaining at Shanghai (November 1) and Bahrain (November 21).