Motorsport: Hartley tops test times

By Eric Thompson

Kiwi shines in Le Mans prototype, writes Eric Thompson

Topping the timesheets is the icing on the cake for the Porsche Team's Brendon Hartley. 

Earl Bamber beat a strong challenge from Martin Ragginger at the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix.
Topping the timesheets is the icing on the cake for the Porsche Team's Brendon Hartley. Earl Bamber beat a strong challenge from Martin Ragginger at the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix.

New Zealander Brendon Hartley has topped the times list at the first official World Endurance Championship (WEC) test at the Paul Ricard, France, track.

Hartley, as a works driver for the Porsche Team, had two days of testing in the LMP1 919 Hybrid, with teammates Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard.

In earlier testing, Hartley and company completed 614 laps (3556km) over two days, including many driver changes.

"Operating as a Porsche works driver for the first time and in the top class of Le Mans prototypes was an impressive experience," Hartley said. "Having topped the timesheets is certainly not the most important thing in our test programme, but personally for me it is the icing on the cake."

Former Red Bull Racing Formula One pilot Mark Webber has a bit of a pedigree in sports car and prototype racing and has settled into his new gig well.

"This test here was a big milestone," Webber said.

"To enter two cars for the first time was a tremendous amount of hard work for the crew on the operational side.

"Smooth running was a well-deserved award and a good tonic for the guys after a long week.

"Every day we run we find more areas to improve, which is very encouraging."

The first WEC round is the six-hour race at Silverstone on April 19 and 20 with the Le Mans 24-Hour race (third round) on June 14 and 15.

Bamber off to a flyer

Earl Bamber beat a strong challenge from Martin Ragginger at the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix.
Earl Bamber beat a strong challenge from Martin Ragginger at the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix.

Kiwi Earl Bamber continued where he left off last season in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia championship over the weekend at the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix. Driving for LKM Racing the 23-year-old set his marker out in qualifying, putting his car on pole.

Bamber zoomed off when the lights went out and crossed the line a comfortable three seconds ahead of Austrian Martin Ragginger with Alexandre Imperatori third. "It was a challenge to hold off Martin at the start, but by lap six we could pull away a bit," said Bamber just before he jumped on a jet to head off for Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup testing in Barcelona.

"It was just a matter of keeping my eyes forward, even though there was a big glaring gold car behind me. It's going to be close all year."

The next race is at the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix on April 18 to 20.

Stanaway gets the call
One minute Kiwi Richie Stanaway is sitting at home looking forward to the opening round of the WEC as an Aston Martin works driver, and the next he's racing down the motorway to jump on a plane heading to Estoril, Spain. It appears a last-minute deal has been done for Stanaway to contest the GP3 season for Status Racing. On the first day of testing, Stanaway was fifth fastest.

What's even more impressive is Stanaway hasn't been back in a single-seater since his major crash at Spa Francorchamps nearly two years ago. With two more test weekends coming up, look to Stanaway to be among the quickest before the opening GP3 round in Spain on May 9 to 11.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a3 at 25 Jul 2014 06:16:53 Processing Time: 302ms