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Ex-F1 driver Mazepin to make race return in Asian Le Mans Series

Former Formula 1 driver Nikita Mazepin will return to racing for the first time in over a year when he joins the Asian Le Mans Series next month.

Nikita Mazepin, Haas F1

Mazepin will share an Oreca 07 entered by 99 Racing with factory Lexus driver Ben Barnicoat and bronze-rated Felix Porteiro in the premier LMP2 class of the Asian LMS, beginning with the season opener in Dubai on February 11.

This will mark Mazepin’s first foray into circuit racing since he was dropped by the Haas F1 team on the eve of the 2022 season following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The 23-year-old has only competed in a rally in his home country of Russia in the ensuing period and also launched a foundation to help athletes who have been blocked from competing due to political reasons.

"I am delighted to be making my return to racing in the Asian Le Mans Series. Together with my teammates at 99 Racing, I’m hoping to have a great experience competing in the sport I love," said Mazepin.

99 Racing will be a part of a nine-car, all-Oreca LMP2 field that will also include entries from United Autosports and Algarve Pro Racing. A total of 48 cars are entered across LMP2, LMP3 and GT divisions.

99 Racing’s star driver will be 26-year-old Barnicoat, who also races for Vasser Sullivan in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and claimed class honours in the Asian LMS last year in an Inception Racing McLaren 720S GT3.

Former WTCC race winner Porteiro will return to racing to complete the lineup of the #98 Oreca.

#98 99 Racing, Oreca 07-Gibson: Ben Barnicoat, Nikita Mazepin, Felix Porteiro

#98 99 Racing, Oreca 07-Gibson: Ben Barnicoat, Nikita Mazepin, Felix Porteiro

Photo by: Asian Le Mans Series

Dan Hodder, 99 Racing Sporting Director, said: “We’re happy to confirm that we’ll be entering the Asian Le Mans Series. It is a great championship for 99 Racing to launch into sportscar racing, which is currently going through a resurgence. 

“With 48 entries, it is once again a highly competitive field. As Ben previously finished runner-up in the Asian le Mans, he will be a key component of us getting up-to-speed as the new team on the block. 

“Of course, it’s an opportunity for Nikita to try something new in a professional yet more relaxed environment to what he’s accustomed to in Formula 1, and we can already see his desire and commitment to be competitive from the outset. 

“For Felix to be making a comeback to racing is also a touching story, and we’re delighted to give him that opportunity.”

As has been the case in recent years, the Asian LMS will run entirely in the UAE over back-to-back weekends, with Dubai Autodrome and the Yas Marina Circuit staging a pair of races each on 11/12 February and 18/19 February respectively.

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