Alex Yoong, the ex-Formula One driver who is joining WPS Racing for the Sandown and Bathurst V8 Supercar Championship Series endurance events, has committed to the team as a fulltime driver. Yoong today jumped at the chance to fill the vacancy...
Alex Yoong, the ex-Formula One driver who is joining WPS Racing for the Sandown and Bathurst V8 Supercar Championship Series endurance events, has committed to the team as a fulltime driver.
Yoong today jumped at the chance to fill the vacancy created by this week's departure of driver Mark Noske and he will immediately relocate from Malaysia to the WPS Racing home base on the Gold Coast.
He was offered the spot with WPS Racing by team owner Craig Gore, the chairman of team sponsor Wright Patton Shakespeare Financial Group, during a telephone hook-up on Wednesday evening.
The move means Yoong will pick up an additional three drives this year -- the Gillette V8 Supercar Challenge during the Lexmark Indy 300 on the Gold Coast, the Triple Challenge in Tasmania and the Main Event at Eastern Creek in Sydney.
He has also signed an option giving him the opportunity to earn a fulltime drive for the 2005 season.
Yoong said he was surprised by the mid-season call up to pilot one of the two WPS Racing Ford Falcons alongside new team mate David Besnard.
"I have made no secret of the fact I was looking for a fulltime drive but it was somewhat of a surprise to get the call from Craig," he said.
"I think most drivers have had their season end early at some stage in their career so I think we can all sympathise with Mark's situation.
"That said, I now have the opportunity to prove myself in a new category and I'm rapt it is with Craig. He is focused on performance and that is obvious for all to see from the success of his businesses.
"When you have his level of commitment then you certainly give yourself every opportunity to succeed at the elite level, whether that be in business or motor racing."
Yoong is due to fly into the Gold Coast on Friday night, barley 48 hours after being presented with the opportunity to drive with WPS Racing.
He will have three weeks to familiarise himself with his new team and surroundings although he won't get the opportunity to test in the car ahead of the next event -- the Betta Electrical Sandown 500 on September 10-12.
"I have had a couple of test sessions with WPS in preparation for the endurance events so I'm not coming in cold," said Yoong.
"At least the endurance races will ensure I get a fair bit of time in the car and that should help me prepare for the additional three rounds at the end of the year."
Gore said Yoong was now in line to make WPS Racing his long-time home.
"Alex has been thrown a challenge and if he rises to it, as we all expect he will, then you will be seeing a lot more of him into the future," said Gore.
The 28-year-old Malaysian, the son of a former professional racing driver, has a celebrated history in motorsport.
He began racing motorcross at age eight and went on to become a teenage driving sensation in Asia before shifting to Europe to race in categories including the British Formula Renault Sport Championships, the British Formula 3 Championships, the Italian Formula 3000 and the International Formula 3000 Championships.
In 2001 he joined the European Minardi Formula One team and became the first Malaysian F1 competitor and the first Asian non-Japanese F1 driver in nearly half a century.
His top place in Formula One was a 7th in the 2002 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
In 2003 he also competed in the US Champ Car World Series.
He has been seeking to break into Australia's V8 Supercar series in 2004 and has shown good promise in his two test sessions with WPS Racing.
A decision is the new makeup of the WPS Racing endurance teams is imminent.
Already signed to drive are WPS Racing team driver's Besnard and Yoong, along with Kiwi ace John McIntyre.
Noske's departure opens up one more place in the team and negotiations are under way to fill that drive.