Hartley eyes Le Mans as career looks up

PETER LAMPP
Last updated 14:03 08/05/2012
Murphy Prototype Racing

STREETS AHEAD: The Murphy Prototype Racing pit crew at work while Brendon Hartley waits for the paddle board to lift at Spa, Belgium at the weekend.

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Brendon Hartley's best bet in Europe this year appears to be picking up last-minute drives weekend by weekend.

He has had racing for three of the past four weekends, culminating in his third place on debut at the World Endurance Championship at Spa in Belgium at the weekend.

Hartley was co-driving an Oreca 03-Nissan LM P2 (Le Mans Prototype) sports car.

And there is a chance he could be back in the cockpit of Ocean Racing Technology's GP2 car in Barcelona this weekend.

He drove for them in the previous two rounds at Bahrain.

It appears Englishman Jon Lancaster is still battling to raise the money to keep his seat with Ocean.

At Spa, the Palmerston North driver was with Irish-owned Murphy Prototype Racing and drove the six-hour race alongside experienced Englishmen Jody Firth and Warren Hughes.

Hartley had his first look at the car only two days before the race.

The six-hour race was the final event before the 24 hours of Le Mans on June 16, the biggest on the endurance racing calendar, and Hartley might be in with a chance of contesting that too.

"I'd love to do Le Mans this year but I'm still working on it," Hartley told Motorsport.com. "This is a one-race deal for now."

Hartley added: "After a disappointing qualifying session, I was delighted to mark my racing debut with Murphy Prototype Racing with such an impressive result."

After qualifying in 11th place, the team fought back despite having a drive-through for not starting with the driver who qualified. They had been granted permission to do that.

"Without the drive-through, we could have challenged for the win," Hartley said.

As the rain fell, Firth spun on the first corner to put them back to 21st.

Hartley drove the car for 2 hours 20 minutes and said he loved every minute of it.

"To make our way through the field like we did shows how impressive the team and the drivers at Murphy Prototype are, and that bodes well for this season and beyond."

It was the first Irish-entered car on a sportscar World Championship podium in 36 years.

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- Manawatu Standard

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