Hartley’s new Sebring double lies ahead

February 26, 2019

Hartley’s new Sebring double lies ahead

February 26, 2019

Brendon Hartley made a name for himself in sports car racing starting six years ago. A surprise win with his gentleman co-driver Scott Mayer in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series race at Road America, driving for Starworks Motorsport, helped put the New Zealander on the map.

Peter Baron, Starworks team principal, has had an uncanny knack for finding young talents over his career and Hartley is among his greatest finds.

In 2014, Hartley joined Porsche’s LMP1 factory team. It helped to launch Hartley on an incredible and somewhat unfathomable career journey.

Co-driving with Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard, the trio won the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship.

Hartley, Bamber and Bernhard won 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans. Photo: Michelin North America

But the 2017 season for him was even better. Hartley’s countryman Earl Bamber had moved into Webber’s seat alongside Hartley and Bernhard. This updated trio won both the 24 Hours of Le Mans in dramatic fashion. Just a few hours into the race, their No. 2 car needed repairs to its front axle. They also went on to win the FIA WEC title again.

Hartley’s career took an unexpected detour back to his open-wheel roots after a surprise sequence of events.

In late 2017, the Scuderia Toro Rosso Formula 1 team had a vacancy for the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of The Americas. It had lost one of its drivers to another team and lost its other planned driver to prior commitment in Japan. But around this time, Hartley rung the Red Bull racing boss to let him know he was available. Thanks to this abnormal turn of events, the team selected Hartley for his F1 race debut.

The WEC title came while Hartley was dovetailing in F1. Between October and November, he raced seven times in eight weekends. The races occurred in the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, Abu Dhabi, Japan, China and Bahrain.

It seemed Hartley’s sports car career had relaunched his open-wheel career. But a frustrating and difficult 2018 F1 season led the Toro Rosso team to drop him at year’s end.


Now, Hartley is back racing and testing different types of machinery again. He’ll remain somewhat in open-wheel racing, as a Ferrari F1 simulator driver and a Porsche Formula E development driver.

In sports car racing, he’ll display his versatility at Sebring next month. He’ll race two different but somewhat similar cars.

No. 17 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1: Stéphane Sarrazin, Egor Orudzhev, Matevos Isaakyan. Photo: Michelin North America

He’ll make his FIA WEC return, with the SMP Racing team in a BR1 AER LMP1 car in the 1000 Miles of Sebring. He raced the Porsche 919 Hybrid for four years. Now, he’ll be in a non-hybrid.

On Monday, Action Express Racing confirmed him in another top class entry, its No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R in IMSA’s DPi class. Hartley has raced the Nissan DPi before, including at Sebring in 2017. And as noted at the top of the story, he emerged in sports car racing with the previous generation Daytona Prototypes.

“With Christian (Fittipaldi) deciding to retire, we needed to find another driver who is fast and a great team player, and Brendon (Hartley) has a great background and attitude that should be a great match with Joao (Barbosa) and Filipe (Albuquerque),” said team manager Gary Nelson. 

“We’ve followed Brendon through the years since we first saw him race so well in GRAND-AM, so we are glad that it worked out for him to join us at Sebring.” 

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