Stephen Errity, WEC correspondent
Exclusive interview with Brendon Hartley
Former Red Bull Junior Driver Brendon Hartley has had a meteoric rise through the European single-seater ranks, culminating in a stint as the Red Bull F1 team's test and reserve driver. He is no longer a part of the junior team, but has continued to make a name for himself in both GP2 and Formula Renault 3.5 over the past two seasons. At Spa this weekend, however, he opened the door on a new chapter in his career, driving the Murphy Protoypes Oreca-Nissan alongside the experienced Warren Hughes and Jody Firth. The Irish-owned team are a full-season European Le Mans Series entry and one of several ELMS teams that have joined the WEC ranks for its Spa round after the Zolder ELMS race was cancelled. We caught up with the laid-back yet focused young Kiwi in the paddock just before qualifying...
I'd love to do Le Mans this year, but I'm still working on it.
Your career has been all in single-seaters so far. How have you come to be racing in Spa this weekend?
“I did a very short test in Paul Ricard in an Oreca a couple of months ago and I've been trying to get involved with sportscars ever since. This deal came up at the last minute and I grabbed the opportunity. So far, so good – obviously I haven't done the race yet, but I like the atmosphere in the pits and I've no complaints so far.”
So you put a lot of effort in to get involved with sportscars? It's not simply a case of single-seater options drying up?
“Yeah, I'm just looking at all my options right now. This is something new for me, but so far I've really enjoyed it and I'd like to take it further, definitely. A lot of drivers are looking at the WEC and Le Mans these days, and with good reason. I'd love to do Le Mans this year, but I'm still working on it – this is a one-race deal for now.”
How is the Oreca LMP2 to drive around Spa compared to the single-seaters you've driven until now?
“Not so different, very similar actually – I'd say the power's a little bit down but the downforce and grip levels are very high, so I'm quite impressed with it.”
How have you found dealing with the traffic – both slower and faster?
“It can be a bit frustrating, but quite often in practice and qualifying cars are one slowing-down laps. I think in the race it'll be more manageable with everyone pushing on every lap. I'm just teaching myself to be patient. There's a few little tricks, like knowing when to dive up the inside or when to let the guy take the corner so you don't lose time. There's a bit I'm still working out but I'm getting to grips with it fairly quickly.”
How are you finding working with your team-mates, especially Warren Hughes, who has so much experience in cars of this type?
“Yeah, I'm trying to suck all the information I can out of him. In single-seaters, you wouldn't want to help your team-mate at all. You do a bit, but in the back of your mind you want to beat him. This is really different. I'm still getting my head around it, but so far I'm really enjoying everything.”