Hartley secures Daytona drive

Brendon Hartley has another big break with a drive in the Daytona 24-hour race in Florida next weekend.

He will be a leading driver in one of two sports cars being run by Fort Lauderdale team Starworks Motorsport, one of five professional drivers in the car.

On his way back to England after his brief Christmas break in New Zealand, the Palmerston North driver stopped off at Daytona Beach to drive 20 laps in the official test.

The cars are Daytona prototypes, similar to the Le Mans cars he raced in Europe for the Irish team, Murphy Prototypes, last year.

Hartley said the Daytona cars generated about 600 horsepower but did not have as much downforce as the Le Mans machines.

"It is a very quick car. We are doing more than 300kmh at the end of the straight," he said from Miami, Florida, yesterday.

He was amazed to secure a deal in January in a race the size of Daytona.

"There are many good professional drivers out there struggling for drives, and the recession isn't helping.

"I'm confident I'll get a few more drives sorted out, and good ones."

Besides that, he is busy as the Mercedes Formula 1 team's simulator test driver. He said this opportunity came about after Starworks, who won the Le Mans Prototype 2 class in Europe, followed Hartley's drives there and got him over for a test two weeks ago.

"The event is huge. The Daytona 500 [Nascar race] and the Daytona 24-hours in terms of American endurance racing are their biggest races on the calendar.

"It's top class and hopefully there is a Rolex watch at the end of it."

The cars race on half of the oval track before cutting into a track on the infield.

"My first time driving on banking was pretty interesting, pretty strange," he said.

It won't be for fellow Kiwi Scott Dixon who will be racing in a Chip Ganassi Racing car in the 65-car field. He was in the winning team in 2006.

"The last time I saw him was when I was 10 years old," Hartley said.

"The best drivers from around the world will be there and it's a massive opportunity for me."

He finds it interesting that he is getting drives in sports cars now after most of his career has been in open cockpits.

Manawatu Standard