Earlier this week, Fredy Lienhard and Didier Theys clocked the first miles of Horag Racing's new Porsche RS Spyder. On a cold two-day test in Barcelona, the Swiss-based team gained valuable experience in advance of the car's race debut at the Twelve Hours of Sebring in March.
In addition to this week's test, the team also announced the signing of Jan Lammers as its third driver. The veteran Dutchman joins Lienhard and Theys for the 2008 program, which primarily focuses on the European-based Le Mans Series. There's also a possibility of the RS Spyder being entered in a second American Le Mans Series race, the Petit Le Mans, on Oct. 4.
The car, in its Sebring livery, spent last Sunday and Monday at Circuit de Catalunya. Already receiving support from Porsche, Theys was enthusiastic about the team's prospects for 2008.
"We had two good, full days of testing last weekend without any problems at all," he said. "We did quite a few miles, and we had no problems even though it was cold. We didn't concentrate on our set-up for that particular track, but instead tried different set-ups in order to learn what the car would do when we made certain changes. The car responded as we hoped, and we loved the feeling we got when driving it. Coupled with our Michelin tires, we think our Porsche RS Spyder package will be very strong. The car is gorgeous too; it's already in its Sebring livery. And we're all happy that Jan has agreed to join us for 2008. We are very excited about the upcoming season."
Lammers is no stranger to sports car racing, despite his background in single-seaters. After winning the 1978 European F3 Championship, he moved to Formula One, failing to score a point in four seasons. But his career turned around in 1988 when he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Andy Wallace and Johnny Dumfries, driving a Jaguar XJR-9 for Tom Walkinshaw Racing.
After stabs in touring cars and a two-race comeback in F1, Lammers formed his own sports car team, Racing for Holland. In 2001, he ran a Dome S101 with a unique checkered board livery, funding the team by selling space on each square to supporters. The team scored back-to-back titles in the FIA Sportscar Championship in 2002 and 2003 after finishing third in the series in 2001. Since that championship's demise, the team was seen competing in the Le Mans Series. RfH has also taken part in every 24 Hours of Le Mans since 2001, with a best result of 6th in 2003. The team has also spearheaded The Netherlands entry in A1GP since 2005.
In 2008, Racing for Holland will take a hiatus from sports car racing and instead focus primarily on A1GP. This opened the door for Lammers to focus on his driving career in sports cars.
"When you get more and more experience, you need more and more competent, no-nonsense people around you. I believe Didier, Fredy and Markus [Hotz, the team owner] as the team captain are definitely all that!" said Lammers. "These men, in combination with the highly competitive, reliable and good- looking RS Spyder, make me feel a lucky man."
Lammers was unable to attend this week's test at Barcelona due to his A1GP commitments but is eager to make his mark with the new RS Spyder.
"I can't wait to join the Horag Racing team and start driving," Lammers added. "Listening to Fredy and Didier after the Barcelona test makes me even more excited! To start in Sebring is particularly special. It's a great, legendary event that I would love to win and add to my multi-page CV."
After finishing fifth in the LMS LMP2 Team's Championship in 2007, Horag Racing has high ambitions despite facing stiff competition. John Nielsen's Team Essex squad and Van Merksteijn Motorsport will also campaign Porsche RS Spyders, making the title race even more challenging. Add in a fast few Lolas, Pescarolos and Zyteks, and the LMP2 division could be the class to watch in 2008.
But instead of eyeing up the competition, the focus during this test was to first get familiar with the new car.
"I think we used the time we had during the two days in Barcelona to collect
as much information as possible about the new Spyder," said team owner Markus Hotz. "We made a lot of progress in learning about the advanced technology that this Porsche offers. When we had questions we had great help, as the Porsche engineers were beside us the whole time. I also understand that they brought quite positive impressions about our team back to Weissach."
Hotz has been pleased with the progress made with the team's new car and is confident everything will come together in time for its debut race.
"[The test] was a good experience for the drivers also, as they found that the car is very 'drivable' and predictable, which is always a goal for me to go for, especially for long-distance races," Hotz continued. "We still have a lot of hard work ahead of us in order to be prepared with all the Porsche-specific equipment we will need in order to be ready for the Sebring 12 Hours. But after this test and the data we gathered, we are more confident that we can handle it."
The team will not take part in neither the ALMS nor the LMS official tests but plans to conduct further tests before the start of its season at Sebring in March.