Mikko Jalonen, ILMC Correspondent
Twice Formula One World Champion Mika Häkkinen will contest the Zhuhaï 6 Hours race in China behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz SLS GT3 under the Team AMG China banner. It marks his return to racing action since October of 2007 in his final Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) appearance.
Zhuhaï is the final round of the 2011 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. The combination of the world’s best sports car teams will take on the challenge at the Zhuhai International Circuit on the 13th of November.
At the age of 43, Häkkinen will be in the cockpit of the AMG Mercedes in GTC class. The Finn earned his Formula One titles in 1998 and '99 with the West McLaren Mercedes Team. He was second in 2000 and at the end of the 2001 season he did not have a ride in the premier open-wheel series and the he elected to take a sabbatical; which led him to retire.
In 2005, Mercedes invited the talented driver to take on a new challenge in the popular touring car German-based series, DTM. Häkkinen left the series at the end of 2007 and since that time has made special appearances and has been active in raising fund for childrens‘charities. At the time of stepping out of his DTM Mercedes, he said, "racing is still in my blood and this decision does not mean that this will prevent me from racing for pleasure."
In China, Häkkinen will get his first touch of endurance racing but already many former Formula 1 aces have made the change including Allan McNish and Mika Salo. Häkkinen lately has also been linked as a possible driver into new i1 Supercar championship series driven in Asia.
At the event, Häkkinen will be backed up by the German ADAC GT Masters series driver, Lance David Arnold and by local hero Cong Fu Cheng, who was first Chinese driver to compete at the 24 Hours Le Mans back in 2008. The race is also special for Mercedes as for the first time the German manufacturer will be on a grid that includes the ILMC teams. This is possible due to GTC class which was accepted by the Automobile Club de L’Ouest to compete in China as of 2010.
At this year‘s edition of the 6 hour endurance in Zhuhaï, Häkkinen will not only be making his sportscar racing debut but he will face a tough challenge from three other GTC entries and also will have to deal with the traffic seen in endurance sportscar racing due to the speed differential between the different classes. The GTC class will see four entries in total, three Audi R8 LMS cars run by Chinese and Japanese teams and, of course, the single Mercedes-Benz entry.
For the Zhuhaï 6 hours event, there are a total of 29 entries.