The new LMP2 star who turned heads at Le Mans
G-Drive Racing's new recruit Job van Uitert continued to impress the endurance racing paddock despite his team's late heartbreak at the Le Mans 24 Hours last weekend.
A strong debut performance left G-Drive LMP2 teammate Jean-Eric Vergne “very happy and impressed” with the 20-year-old, who left single-seaters at the end of 2017 and has enjoyed a rapid rise of the ranks in sportscar racing.
Van Uitert graduated to top-line LMP2 squad G-Drive after winning the 2019 ELMS title in LMP3 with RLR MSport, and immediately impressed in his maiden LMP2 campaign, winning at Monza alongside Roman Rusinov and Vergne's stand-in Norman Nato in only his second race.
That was followed up by another strong showing in last month's Spa FIA World Endurance Championship round, where the G-Drive crew finished second in a rain and snow-affected race, only missing out on class victory to DragonSpeed in the closing stages.
For G-Drive programme manager Rusinov, those results vindicated his squad's decision on a replacement for Andrea Pizzitola, who was upgraded from silver to gold status over the winter.
In the run-up to Le Mans, Rusinov told Motorsport.com: "Before [we signed van Uitert] we did quite a lot of tests to decide who will race with us. We spent a lot of time and money to find the right guy, and I think we have the right guy this year."
Van Uitert confirmed his potential at Le Mans as the battle raged between the #26 G-Drive Racing Aurus-badged Oreca and the #36 Signatech Alpine for much of the distance.
The Dutch driver's 30-lap average during the race was a 3m30.787s, just nine tenths off his experienced teammate and Formula E champion Vergne. By comparison, van Uitert's opposite number in the Signatech car, Pierre Thiriet, had an average of 3m33.620s.
#26 G-Drive Racing Aurus 01 Gibson: Job Van Uitert
Photo by: Alexander Trienitz
With five hours to go G-Drive was leading Signatech Alpine by over three minutes when it disappeared into the garage for 20 minutes with a “wiring issue”. The #26 crew eventually finished sixth, Vergne later explaining a '10 cent' piece cost the squad a win.
"For his first Le Mans I think Job did very well,” Vergne said of his teammate. "He didn’t make any silly mistakes or lose patience, so he was pretty good. The whole team is very happy and impressed and he did a great job.”
David Leach, G-Drive’s technical director added: "Job was impressive at Le Mans. I was unsure how he would cope when the fatigue sets in and adrenaline starts to wear off.
"His average pace during the night and morning was better than I expected considering his experience level. A slight grin on the pit wall was the result."
Van Uitert, who was classified as the fastest silver-rated driver at La Sarthe, was left heartbroken after the incident but managed to put his team’s misfortune into context.
"What happened with the race itself was a real shame because we were looking very strong," he said. "I’m sure we would have won it if we hadn’t had the mechanical problem but that’s motorsport. Sometimes stuff like that happens.
"There’s nothing you can do about it. we can only be proud - proud of ourselves and what we achieved in that period and the week itself.”
G-Drive set for additional WEC races
On top of resuming his ELMS campaign with G-Drive, van Uitert may get more opportunities to drive in the WEC in the 2019/20 season, with Rusinov looking into the prospect of lodging additional entries with the team's Aurus-branded Oreca.
As well as this year's Bahrain race, both the Interlagos and Sebring rounds are under consideration, on top of the usual Le Mans warm-up round at Spa.
"It's very complicated to do WEC starting from Silverstone, because we have to do ELMS, and WEC on the same weekend," said Rusinov. "We need to have a second car, double the mechanics, and also we are signing [the budgets] for the year, January to December.
"For sure I love WEC and this year we'll do Bahrain. Next year I would love to do Brazil and Sebring as well. It's under discussion."
#26 G-Drive Racing Aurus 01 Gibson: Roman Rusinov, Job Van Uitert, Jean-Eric Vergne
Photo by: Marc Fleury
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