After having only made his sports car racing debut less than two years ago, Brendon Hartley landed one of the most desired rides in all of motorsports, having been named a driver for Porsche’s new factory LMP1 program.
The 24-year-old Kiwi has joined the likes of endurance racing veterans Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Formula One star Mark Webber in the German manufacturer’s two-car effort in the FIA World Endurance Championship, in what no doubt comes as a significant turning point in his career.
Considered to have been on the fast track to F1, a series of events saw Hartley shift gears to sports car racing in 2012.
He competed in a handful of races for Murphy Prototypes, including an impressive performance at Petit Le Mans, which caught the eye of Starworks Motorsport team principal Peter Baron, and led to a full-season drive in the Rolex Sports Car Series last year.
After claiming a win at Road America, a podium finish in the Six Hours of The Glen, as well as multiple fastest race laps, along with a promising, but unlucky season in the ELMS in Murphy’s LMP2 car, Hartley was given the nod to test Porsche’s 919 Hybrid late last year, which turned into an opportunity of a lifetime.
“Ever since [making my sports car debut], it was the goal to get noticed by a manufacturer,” Hartley told Sportscar365. “I didn’t know it would happen so soon and didn’t imagine it would happen with Porsche, the most iconic sports car manufacturer at Le Mans and the most successful as well. It’s a real dream.
“At the beginning of last year, it seemed quite unrealistic for that to happen. I knew that I was on top of my game but I wasn’t really sure that everyone was noticing. Obviously, results weren’t always coming for a number of reasons, and that’s endurance racing, you have a lot of variable factors.
“I think Porsche really analyzed my last two years in endurance racing, every stint and every lap, and said they saw I did a good job. I met with them, they liked me. I did a good job at the test and here I am. But I’m still surprised to be sitting in this position, but obviously very happy.”
Hartley began testing the V4-powered hybrid prototype in earnest earlier this year in preparation for the highly anticipated season-opener in Silverstone, which will see Porsche go up against Audi and Toyota for overall honors and the world title.
While there are still many unknowns heading into the season, particularly where the 919 Hybrid will stack up against the competition in the new-look LMP1 class, Hartley is upbeat about their chances.
“The team is very capable and a very good bunch of guys that we’re working with,” he said. “I have a lot of faith in the people I’m working with and my teammates… What a fantastic group of teammates. So far, we’re all getting on very well.
“I can’t really comment on where we’re at compared to other cars because we don’t know. We haven’t tested on track [against the competition] but I have a lot of confidence in everyone at the team.”
With new regulations, a new car and a new challenge, 2014 could very well be a breakout year for the ultra-quick Kiwi as he takes to the center stage of the endurance racing world.
“I’m really excited for the year ahead and feel that I’m on top of my driving and have been for the last year,” Hartley said. “My confidence is high. To be able to work with such talented and experienced teammates, I think I can learn a little bit from every single one of them.
“It’s a really unique opportunity with me being the youngest in the program and obviously the least experienced. But I have the opportunity to learn from the others as I continue to develop as a sports car driver.”