New Zealander Brendon Hartley has become a works professional driver for the official Porsche AG team for the 2014 World Endurance Championship.
The 24-year-old will be one of the youngest fulltime endurance drivers in the category and joins a six-strong roster of drivers in two new Porsche 919 hybrid cars as the German manufacturer makes its first full-on assault in 16 years on the world endurance title.
Hartley's teammates include retired Formula One driver Mark Webber; former Formula One test driver Neel Jani; Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas, who between them have seven overall victories from 24-hour races Nurburgring, Daytona and Spa, and overall victory together in Le Mans with Audi; and Marc Lieb, who has scored five overall wins in 24-hour races, four times on the Nurburgring and once at Spa. The two-car factory team will race in the eight-round World Sports Car Championship that includes the Le Mans 24 Hours in France.
"It was a very, very special moment for me when I was announced at the Porsche Night of Champions as one of the drivers for next season," Hartley said. "It's probably one of the proudest moments of my life to be signed by Porsche as a factory driver.
"I have so many people to thank for helping to get me where I am now from starting in New Zealand.
"It's a massive opportunity for me of which I will take every advantage to do well at. I've had some lows in the past and I'm happy to acknowledge that. It may sound a bit of a cliche, but I did learn from them and they did make me stronger."
After being released a few years ago by the Red Bull Junior Development Formula One squad, Hartley has proved he can mix it with the world's best in endurance racing, including setting the fastest class race lap times in some of the biggest events in the world, including the Le Mans 24 Hour.
Hartley ended his European Le Mans Series season on the best possible note. He and co-driver Jonathan Hirschi bought their Murphy Prototypes Oreca-Nissan LMP2 home in first place to notch up the teams first win in the championship. In his first full season racing sports cars, Hartley has won in Europe and America. His win in the ELMS is just reward for a season that has been fraught with mechanical emergencies when he and his co-driver have been in winning positions.
Although Hartley realises this is his biggest opportunity to date, he won't be out of his depth.
"It's a very ambitious project for Porsche, and to be part of the comeback of one of the biggest names in endurance racing will come with huge pressure. It will be a big task, especially knowing our competitors have been developing their cars for a few years now.
"It's funny actually, all through my career I was the youngest and at the end of my single seater career I realised I wasn't the youngest any more. But it's all swapped around now and I'm the youngest again.
"Experience plays a big part and endurance racing is all about teamwork. I know I'm young for this type of racing but I have a wealth of experience and have shown I can do a good job. I've progressed a lot in the past two years and can only get better, especially with all the stuff I can learn from my teammates - and there's definitely a lot I can learn from them."