Four years ago, when he made his Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama debut, Texan Will Hardeman was the true definition of a rookie.
He not only hadn’t raced in the series before, he really hadn’t raced much of anything.
“It’s pretty amazing, because four years ago, we started this journey together and he’d never been in a car before,” recalls David Moore, president of the Texas-based Moorespeed team for which Hardeman races.
“It’s been great. He got quick fast, because he’s got some talent, but he’s worked really hard at it. He’s always been playing catch up with the competition because they had so much more experience than he had.”
In 2016, Hardeman’s second season of racing in GT3 Cup Challenge, he earned the first podium result of his career with a third-place run at his hometown track, Circuit of The Americas.
That was an abbreviated season for Hardeman, as he took time off from the series for the birth of his daughter, Lily, who now attends several races along with Hardeman’s wife, Anna.
“I am very grateful and thankful at the end of the day that my family supports me in this endeavor,” Hardeman says. “I have the satisfaction that my family is there supporting me and we’re at a good place in that regard.
“I do still have to balance the responsibilities that I have now as a family man and with racing. Yes, there are more things that I’m juggling, but it’s nothing that other successful people in racing have not been able to do in the past, so I’m not unique in that regard.”
While being a family man at the racetrack may not be unique, that doesn’t mean Hardeman isn’t unique in other ways.
“He’s just a special person,” Moore says. “I don’t know if you’ve ever been around Will, but he’s just not your normal guy, man. He’s old school, but he’s a renaissance man.
“I’ve always known that he was an athlete. How I’d describe it is, he’s got bounce. You can throw Will up in the air like a cat and he’s always going to land on his feet. He just has that innate ability and he’s very analytical, but he’s very artistic too.”
Hardeman and Moore believe the combination of art, analytics and ability will translate to ultimate on-track success in 2018.
Last year, Hardeman had his best season in the series, finishing sixth in the final standings with two runner-up results, at Barber Motorsports Park and Watkins Glen.
“My goals are always to do as well as possible,” Hardeman says. “I would say, more specifically, I would like to end up on the podium every race, which means top three within the Platinum division.
“That would put me in strong contention for finishing the season in the top three. Always, gunning for first place, obviously.”
To aid in their efforts, Hardeman and the Moorespeed team will work again with Earl Bamber, a two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans overall winner and full-time driver of the No. 911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, as a driver coach.
They first worked together two years ago but took last year off when Bamber was racing the Porsche 919 Hybrid full time in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
However, they did one race together, a Blancpain GT Series Asia race in Shanghai, finishing an impressive second in the Pro/Am class.
“I would say the reason that I’m able to compete in IMSA and consistently be in the top five has a lot to do with Earl and a lot of his help,” Hardeman says.
“I was just grateful to be able to race in IMSA as of three years ago and be able to comfortably run with the level of the competition. After working with Earl, it’s made me realize that I have the potential to compete for podiums and wins now.”
If Hardeman does score a breakthrough victory in GT3 Cup Challenge, which opens with a doubleheader of races at Sebring on March 15-16, it’ll be hard earned. But all involved believe he’s more than equal to the task.
“That GT3 Cup is pretty hardcore, man,” Moore said. “People don’t understand, the racing is 45 minutes of fury. What we need to focus on with him this year is qualifying, ‘cause he’s got the raw speed.
“You can see, he set some of the fastest laps in the race the last two years, but he had some really bad luck last year. He was faster than his teammate that finished second in the championship and won three races, so we’ll see. This is going to be an interesting year.”