By: Eric Mauk
Joey Hand and Jonathan Summerton have followed very similar career paths in making their way to the upper levels of auto racing, so it seems fitting that one driver should benefit from the other’s success.
Hand’s well-deserved promotion to a seat in the DTM series with BMW has created an opportunity for Summerton to replace him in the BMW Team RLL ride in the American Le Mans Series at next week’s race in Road America.
Summerton, who like Hand, came up through the open-wheel ranks before finding his way to road racing, will join Dirk Muller at Road America in a seat that is open for the weekend due to Hand’s DTM conflict at the Nurburgring. The move comes at a vital time in the career of the 24-year-old Floridian and he is looking forward to the challenge.
“This is very important,” Summerton said. “My career in open wheel had stalled and I needed to go racing in a top series with a top team to move my career forward. This is a great opportunity and I’m very thankful to be able to broaden my career from top open wheel series to GT racing with a serious manufacturer in BMW.”
This will not be Summerton’s maiden voyage with BMW Team RLL as he joined Hand and Muller to win this year’s Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring in his first time with the program.
“If anyone had told me I would be able to celebrate victory with the guys after my first race in the BMW M3 GT, I wouldn’t have believed him,” reported Summerton. “I couldn’t have asked for better teammates than Joey and Dirk. They made me feel at home from the very first moment and supported me in all areas. Being with this team for this race is the best that could happen to me.”
An open-wheel veteran of a number of top junior series, Summerton heads to the high-speed Road America venue having already tasted victory on the four-mile layout in the Kettle Moraine area of Wisconsin.
“I’m very excited. I love the track. It has lots of exciting corners with great passing areas, Summerton recalled. “I won in The Atlantic Championship, where I raced up from ninth on the grid, in 2008 and finished second to James Hinchcliffe in Formula BMW in 2004. The experience will be helpful. The driving style won’t be that different, but there is, of course, the differences in the weight and downforce levels between the open wheel and GT cars.”
Summerton was hired by BMW Team RLL after Bobby Rahal persuaded BMW to take a look at the young American, as the team needed two extra drivers for its two-car efforts in longer races such as the 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans. But as all things in racing, Summerton knows that nothing is certain for 2013 and that he needs to continue to impress at every stop – including next weekend at Road America.
“I don’t have anything set yet. I am always open to any opportunities. Hopefully, something will come from this season and I will be picked up full time by a competitive team or a manufacturer,” said Summerton. “It’s a driver’s dream to drive for a manufacturer, but I also have a dream of driving in Formula One or IndyCar. Who knows what the future holds? I will take every opportunity I can get and do my best at whatever I do. I’ve always been able to win races and believe I can continue to win in any type of car or series.”