FIA World Endurance Championship star Brendon Hartley is hoping his debut in this weekend’s Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai could lead to additional GT racing outings, with the goal of one day competing in the Nürburgring 24.
The Porsche LMP1 factory driver, who scored a season-high four victories last year, has joined the Herberth Motorsport team for the 24H Series season-opener, in what will be the Kiwi’s first time behind the wheel of a Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“I was really keen to have an experience in a 911,” Hartley told Sportscar365. “Going forward, long-term I’d love to be able to do the Nordschleife, something I could tick off the list. This opportunity came about and I jumped at it.
“It’s a great team, they’ve got a great lineup and won races last year.
“I haven’t gotten any experience in a 911 other than doing a couple laps in a Cup car at Leipzig. But I’m a quick learner and hopefully I’ll get the hang of it.”
Hartley’s only prior GT racing experience came in 2013, when he took part in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour in an United Autosports-run Audi R8 LMS ultra.
“I like to think of racing cars in a simple way and that the fact it’s a race car; it’s got four wheels,” he said.
“It’s still got the Porsche badge on there. The engine is in a different place, obviously, but [there’s similar] skills required by a driver to get the most out of the car.
“There’s always going to be a few tricky things from car to car but the skill set is very similar.”
Having gotten advise from 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Earl Bamber, who will make the transition from Porsche GT cars to LMP1 full-time this year, Hartley said he’s trying not to overthink his one-off run in the 911 GT3 R.
The 2015 World Champion will share the German-entered Porsche with Daniel Allemann, Ralf Bohn and brothers Robert ad Alfred Renauer.
“Traffic management is going to be key,” Hartley said. “In all these 24-hour races, there’s always something to learn.
“It’s going to be quite different from the LMP1 car but at the same time, there’s always something to take away from it. So I’m looking forward to it.”
Hartley is also one of nearly two-dozen drivers here this weekend that are also set to take part in the Rolex 24 at Daytona at the end of month, with the 27-year-old joining Tequila Patron ESM’s new Nissan Onroak DPi in the fight for overall honors in the Florida endurance classic.
“It’s going to be a busy start to the year and then obviously the full focus goes to the WEC,” he said. It’s all good experience.
“I really enjoyed doing Daytona last year; I think that was helpful having a 24-hour race under my belt before the season got underway.
“With this race in particular, there’s close to 100 cars on the track, all at different speeds with a lot going on. There’s always something to take away from it.”
“The team has high expectations. I believe we’re hoping for a good result. I’d like to see how I progress in the car.”
As for his Nürburging 24 aspirations, Hartley ruled out taking part in this year’s race but said it remains a target for the future.
“In the years at some point I’d like to tick it off the list and I’d like to do it,” he said.
“So this is a great opportunity to have as first taste of a 911 and just show everyone that I can do the job in this as well as LMP1 cars.”