Motorsport: Star hopes to reign in Spain

By Eric Thompson

Richie Stanaway is stepping up a level in the World Series by Renault.  Photo / Supplied
Richie Stanaway is stepping up a level in the World Series by Renault. Photo / Supplied

Another of New Zealand's bright young things in motorsport, Richie Stanaway, begins his third tilt at a European single-seater championship this weekend at Motorland, Spain.

Stanaway has already won the German ADAC championship, which he followed up by winning the German Formula Three championship and has now stepped up to the World Series by Renault's 3.5-litre series (WSR).

In 2007, Stanaway won the SpeedSport Scholarship and Rookie of the Year, and went on to win at the New Zealand Formula First Association's Annual One-Hour Race at Manfeild.

He moved up from karts into the Formula Ford championship for the 2008/09 season racing a Mygale chassis for the first time in New Zealand. He clinched the title, and the Ron Frost Memorial Trophy, with one race to spare at the last round of the championship at Pukekohe.

Other than Shane Van Gisbergen, Stanaway is the only driver to win the series in his rookie year.

Stanaway made motor racing buffs take notice when he plonked himself in a TRS car at the Hamilton round of the V8 Supercars and put everyone to the sword.

Shortly afterwards he won the German ADAC Formula Masters Championship at his first go. He won more races and had more podiums than any other driver in the history of the series.

By winning, Stanaway was given a German Formula Three test, then moved on to win the championship and was selected as one of two nominees from New Zealand to be considered for the FIA Young Drivers Academy in Austria in 2011.

Past winners of the German series include Michael Schumacher, Sebastien Vettel, Nick Heidfeld, Jos Verstappen, Jarno Trulli and eight-times Le Mans 24 Hour winner Tom Kristensen.

When Schumacher won the German F3 title he amassed five race wins. Stanaway won 11.

Stanaway turned even more heads when he blitzed the field to win a GP3 race at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, in his first outing in the car last year.

Pre-season testing in the Formula Renault 3.5 series was a bit of an eye-opener for Stanaway, but he put in lap times within a second of the fastest drivers and at one point topped the timing sheets.

"I've still got a lot to learn," said Stanaway. "We'll only really know more at the end of the first race because it's difficult to draw conclusions on who the frontrunners are going to be from these tests.

"We know the experienced drivers are going to be in the mix, but with this new car the rookies are also going to have something to say.

"If I'm going to win this one [championship], I'll need to be consistent."

Stanaway will be driving for Lotus, who already back official teams in Formula One, IndyCar, GP2, GP3, German F3 (ATS Formel 3 Cup), as well as GT racing, LMP2, and rallying. By joining the World Series by Renault he can take advantage of its commitment to supporting up-and-coming talent and creating a way into Formula One.

"We've been quite good and the pace has been decent," he said. "We had a few problems here and there but that's to be expected with a new car. We're hoping we don't have any issues on the weekend.

"I've never raced there [Motorland] but have done five days of testing and I quite like the circuit."

Competition in the WSR is tough but he aims to win races and finish in the top three in the championship. This year's cars are lighter and more powerful with extra downforce and will utilise DRS similar to F1 cars.

Formula Renault 3.5

May 5-6: Motorland Aragon, Spain
May 26-27: Monaco
June 2-3: Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
June 30-July 1: Nürburgring, Germany
July 14-15: Moscow Raceway, Russia
August 25-26: TBC
September 15-16: Hungaroring, Hungary
September 29-30: Paul Ricard HTTT, France
October 20-21: Barcelona, Spain

- NZ Herald

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