Hartley in historic race

PETER LAMPP
Last updated 12:00 15/06/2012

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Brendon Hartley was stoked when told he would be driving in the Le Mans 24-hour race.

This weekend, in one of the world's most historic races, Hartley will be one of three drivers in the Murphy Prototype Racing team.

Two weeks ago he had his first taste of the circuit at the official Le Mans test and after that he was named to share the drive with Englishmen Jody Firth and Warren Hughes.

"The on-board video doesn't really do the circuit justice, it certainly exceeded my expectations," Hartley said.

"The 14 kilometres has so many challenges and requires a lot of respect from a driver."

The 24-hour race runs on the Circuit de la Sarthe, a mix of closed public roads and the specialist motor racing circuit.

Last month Hartley helped the same team to third place on debut at the World Endurance Championship at Spa in Belgium.

In testing for Le Mans, the goal for the day was to complete 10 laps to qualify to race, and Hartley and his team-mates all completed the mandatory 10 laps, finishing 10th.

"This was a huge relief as I have been working on this for some time and after doing a few laps on the track in the LMP2 [Le Mans Prototype] car I was not prepared to miss out on the race," Hartley said.

This will be the Murphy team's Le Mans 24-hour debut.

The 167 drivers will share 56 cars, with drivers not allowed to race for more than four hours at a time and 14 hours in total.

Hartley has said the LMP2 car is equivalent in speed to the World Series Renault cars he is conversant with. They are powered by Nissan V8 engines similar to those his father Bryan builds for superstocks in his Palmerston North factory.

The Le Mans drive could open up other avenues for Hartley, who also spends two days a week testing for the Mercedes Formula 1 team in England.

He recently drove older Formula 1 cars at the Masters Historic Festival at Brands Hatch in England.

In the regular Grand Prix Masters race, Hartley had a win with what was described as a "superb demonstration of high-speed driving" and a second placing in cars owned by former New Zealander Roger Wills.

Hartley's win came in Nigel Mansell's former car, a Lotus 92/5 John Player Special, and also drove a Can Am McLaren M1C and shared a Mercury Cyclone.

"This car was absolutely hilarious and like nothing I have ever driven before. The only other car with a roof that I have driven before this was a Honda Integra when I was 14."

The Mercury weighed 1300 kilograms, had heaps of power, almost no brakes and even less grip.

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- Manawatu Standard

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