Motorsport: Kiwi's double success

By Eric Thompson

After tearing up Le Mans, Brendon Hartley gets a F1 Merc.

Brendon Hartley will be driving a 2011 Mercedes Wo2 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed after his success at Le Mans. Photo / Supplied
Brendon Hartley will be driving a 2011 Mercedes Wo2 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed after his success at Le Mans. Photo / Supplied

Fresh from his debut at the Le Mans 24-Hour race, New Zealand driver Brendon Hartley will be sliding himself into a Mercedes Formula One car this weekend at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Hartley has been at Mercedes F1 working on its simulator programme and will drive a 2011 Mercedes W02 at Goodwood.

"I have worked with the team closely developing their car, but driving the real thing will be a treat," said Hartley.

"It will be a fantastic experience to not only drive up the hill at Goodwood for the first time, but also to have my first taste of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 car."

Hartley's previous F1 gig was with Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso, where he also made a name for himself in the simulator.

"I guess the key [to working at Mercedes] is that I have had a lot of experience in simulators. I can't take any credit for Mercedes success this year, as it's a big team full of some clever guys. I'd like to think I'm part of it and able to contribute a little.

"I've been driving single seaters since I was 13, and although I'm still quite young [22] I had a lot of experience. I was at Red Bull for quite a while and helped their car and although I haven't raced in Formula One I've done a lot of F1 development via a simulator.

"I have a lot of experience with simulators which I'd to think makes me a bit of an asset. Although it's close to reality not everyone gets on with it [simulators].

"Your brain still has to work out a lot and you have to try and trick it into thinking you're doing the real thing. Not everyone has a good time with it but it works for me."

Hartley may be an important cog in the bigger picture at Mercedes in helping to develop its F1 car but he's also a racer. Recently he stepped out of the simulator and into a Murphy Prototypes LMP2 Nissan Oreca and acquitted himself very well before the car retired on after 10 hours.

"It was disappointing not finishing but we had a pretty good showing anyway. And I can be confident knowing I did a good job in the car. We could have had a good result, and for the team's first time there, we did a good job with one experienced driver and a couple of rookies including me."

Early in the fifth hour of the race, Jody Firth handed over to Hartley, who according to all the reports looked very much at home in an endurance sports car despite having spent all his racing life in single seaters.

Within a couple of laps he was setting the fastest times in his class and closing rapidly on the leaders. He soon passed the leading car and was easing away at around 10-12 seconds a lap. He was was soon inside the top 10 for outright honours and moved up to seventh before disaster struck.

Warren Hughes got a puncture and had to stop for fresh tyres and a new rear deck. The disintegrating tyre had damaged the original and the team dropped back to ninth in class and 16th overall.

Hartley was soon back behind the wheel and was reeling off fastest laps again when more drama occurred. Fizzing through the Porsche Curves, he felt the rear end twitch and then the rear suspension gave way, pitching the car into a spin from which Hartley could not recover.

"I've really enjoyed the endurance racing and it seems likely I'll be able to do some races with them [Murphy Prototypes]," he said.

" However there's nothing sure yet and I'm still working on it. I'd like to continue doing endurance racing and I see it as quite a big part of my future."

- NZ Herald

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