One the surprise additions to Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s lineup for the Rolex 24 has been Alex Wurz, who is making his Daytona debut less than three months after announcing his retirement from driving.
The former Toyota LMP1 factory driver, who signed off with a podium finish in the FIA WEC Six Hours of Bahrain only 48 days ago, climbed back behind the wheel of a race car Friday to prepare for what Wurz stresses is a one-off race.
“I’m still retired [from full-time driving]; I’m not here to chase a U.S. career. My racing is done,” Wurz told Sportscar365.
“I’m happy to have gotten the call and opportunity to race for Ganassi, which is a really outstanding team.”
Wurz received the call to join the star-studded DP lineup on the day he announced his retirement, an opportunity the 41-year-old Austrian said was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
Teaming with Andy Priaulx, reigning World Endurance Champion Brendon Hartley and 17-year-old Lance Stroll in the No. 01 Ganassi Riley-Ford DP, Wurz holds the unique opportunity of becoming the 13th driver to win the endurance racing “triple crown” with overall victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Twelve Hours of Sebring and Rolex 24.
He also claimed overall victory at Petit Le Mans in 2011, when driving for Peugeot.
“It will be difficult because the other guys are on it and we have to learn a lot,” Wurz said. “I just wanted to do Daytona as it was on my list.
“I’ve done interviews ten years ago saying I would like to do Daytona. I’m now here.”
Wurz got his first laps in the Ford EcoBoost-powered DP Friday morning and was quick to note the differences, both in machinery and team, from Toyota Gazoo Racing and the Toyota TS040 Hybrid he piloted in the 2015 WEC season.
“I’ve done a few laps. It’s obviously very different from the WEC car,” he said. “Everything is different, even the vocabulary everyone uses. It’s a big learning curve.
“One of the biggest challenges is understanding I have significantly less downforce. If you’re used to high-downforce cars, you have to reset your brain. That’s what’s happening right.
“The best advise came from Chip himself and he said just stay on track and don’t touch anyone. That sums it up.”
While Wurz could be chasing history later this month, he’s taken a serious and calculated approach to what is likely to be his one-and-only race of the year.
After all, the ex-Formula One ace, who has enjoyed a largely successful 23-year career, isn’t here to just soak up the atmosphere, but instead make a push to victory.
“You can only enjoy it if you win it,” Wurz. “We’re not here just to fill the numbers, not in a Chip Ganassi car.”