Richie Stanaway could be Le Mans for the job

JACK BARLOW
Last updated 05:00 24/03/2013
Richie Stanaway
Photosport
DRIVER'S SEAT: Richie Stanaway has given away single-seater racing for now.

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Kiwi racing driver Richie Stanaway's long-awaited comeback hit a roadblock last weekend, with a bizarre paperwork issue preventing him from taking to the track.

Originally due to race a Team Kiwi Racing Porsche in a support race for the Australian Grand Prix, Stanaway needed to produce a copy of his insurance policy before he could step into the car.

Unfortunately, his policy was underwritten in the United Kingdom, there was a clash of time zones and, after leaving the matter until late in the day, the underwriters didn't open in time, and the young driver missed the cutoff point by a matter of hours.

It was an odd way to miss a race. Team Kiwi Racing Team Principal, David John, was philosophical about the situation.

"It was certainly frustrating for everyone involved," John said.

"There was so much promise for everyone, and we all worked hard to make it happen - but these things happen. We still had the other car put in a good show, so it wasn't all bad for us."

Disappointing though it was, things have generally been looking up for 21-year-old Stanaway.

After months in the wilderness following his debilitating Formula Renault 3.5 crash at Spa last year, he recently flew to the United States to test with leading sportscar team Aston Martin Racing.

The British-based outfit are looking to pick up an extra driver for this year's Le Mans 24-hour race, and Stanaway looks to be a frontrunner for the seat. He impressed Aston Martin Racing team principal, John Gaw, who referred to the test as "great" and invited him to a further test last Monday.

It is the latest in a series of events that have seen Stanaway turn away from single-seaters and, instead, aim for the world of sportscar racing.

Although it recently appeared as if a European Formula 3 drive was in the works, that deal fell over, and he is now almost certain to compete in this year's Porsche Supercup GT series.

It's a big change for someone who has spent his entire career racing single-seat race cars. Still, he is grateful for the chance to race anything, given the tumult he was plunged into after last year's long layoff.

"I just feel grateful to have the opportunity to drive something, really," he said.

"The new challenge is exciting. With my injury last year and the fragile situation I have been in recently leading to a lot of uncertainty hanging about, I'm just thankful to be able to continue my path in motorsport, even though it's in a different discipline to what I'm used to."

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The switch has also seen him bid farewell to one of his original goals. Formula One, for now, is off the radar.

"I always had the goal of reaching F1 but the sponsorship required to make that happen is unrealistic for me to attain," he said, adding that "there are still many opportunities around in other categories which my management are pursuing now."

Nevertheless, getting the chance to race at the oldest and most prestigious race in the world - for one of the most famous marques in motor racing, no less - hardly seems like a bad backup option.

"Yeah, Le Mans is always on every drivers' bucket list," Stanaway enthused.

"It's probably something I've always thought I might end up doing later in life, but if the chance is to be there to do it this year I'd grab the opportunity with both hands."

Le Mans is the scene of one of New Zealand's finest moments - three of the top-four in the 1966 event were Kiwis, with Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon winning, and 1967 F1 world champion Denny Hulme second.

- Sunday News

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