Three-time Le Mans winner for Audi brings experience to Dayton-led squad
Highcroft Racing has finalized its driver line-up for its debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with three-time race winner Marco Werner joining Marino Franchitti and last year’s victor David Brabham.
The reigning American Le Mans Series LMP1 champions will campaign the Honda Performance Development factory-backed ARX-01c chassis for its Le Mans debut in the LMP2 class.
With three Le Mans victories in a row in 2005, 06 and 07, three Sebring wins, a 24 Hour of Daytona title and an American Le Mans Series LMP1 driver’s title to his credit, selecting Werner to fill the available third-driver role was an easy decision for Highcroft boss, Duncan Dayton.
Following Highcroft’s second place in LMP2 in Saturday’s Twelve Hours of Sebring, the Danbury, CT-based squad stayed on at the historic Florida venue for two days of testing on Monday and Tuesday – taking advantage of the opportunity to provide Werner with some valuable seat-time alongside his new teammates.
“Compared to the Audi, this is going to be a completely different world for me so I am really looking forward to driving the car at Le Mans,” Werner said.
“I know the car in Sebring as an LMP2 was very competitive and it is much lighter than the Audi. I’m looking forward to having a much more agile car to drive.
“It will be very different at Le Mans. We know that LMP2 and LMP1 are in a different world, but at circuits like Sebring there isn’t that much difference.”
Highcroft Racing will be the sole American team contesting the LMP2 class at this year’s French endurance classic. While team-owner Dayton has contested the race as a driver in the past, this year’s Le Mans will not only be the team’s 24 Hour debut, but also its first overseas race.
“I’m very proud to be joining the team for Le Mans as I think we have a great chance to win the LMP2 class,” Werner said.
“Highcroft is a real high-level team and we have a great driver line-up with David and Marino
“You obviously need a complete package for Le Mans and you need a little bit of luck but I think we will be the team to beat.
“The diesel is a very heavy car and it is sometimes difficult to drive over the bumps. This car is very nimble and brings back some memories – the car almost has a Formula 3 feel to it. You can brake so much later into the corners than what you could in the Audi. It’s a very different driving style which takes a bit of getting used to.
“Coming to Highcroft will be a new environment for me. I’m enjoying working with the guys and having competed against them before, I know they are very tough opponents.
“At Le Mans it is imperative to have every aspect of your package at the highest level. I think we have everything in place – from the Michelin tires, the crew, the chassis, the engine, the drivers – I don’t see on the list any other team where they have everything in place.”
With Highcroft Racing’s resident Frenchman Simon Pagenaud competing for the Peugeot factory team in LMP1 at Le Mans this year, Highcroft sought additional endurance experience for its Le Mans debut.
Not only do they now have four overall race wins in the history books, the Highcroft driver line-up also has a pair of GT1 victories in Brabham’s name. In fact, the Australian ace will be aiming for his fourth consecutive class win after winning GT1 for Aston Martin in 2007 and 2008 and the LMP1 division and overall title for Peugeot last year.
“It has been fun to see that hot pink helmet of Marco’s in a green car. With our team going to Le Mans for the first time this year we have quite a bit to learn,” Highcroft Racing, President, Duncan Dayton said.
“Obviously we will rely a lot on David’s expertise and experience but when it came to completing our driver line-up it was important for us to find somebody who had great experience and knew how to win there.
“Marco knows the rhythm of the race and the weekend and clearly when he became available, there was certainly nobody else we could grab to help us quickly learn how to win there.
“Now that he is in an LMP2 car, he’s probably never gone so slow down the straight but so fast through the corners over the past ten years . It is a totally different driving style that he has to get used to in this car but he did a great job in the test.
“He is an consummate professional and has been very consistent with his times. Driving this car does give your neck a bit of a beating but by the time we get to France he will be ready to go.
“I’m very excited about our entire line-up of David, Marino and Marco and I believe we have a very strong package for our debut at Le Mans.”
Courtesy ALMS © RIF