Absolute Racing is ready for the 24 Hours of Le Mans after learning that it would be taking over Hardpoint’s GTE-Am entry only four days before scrutineering ahead of Test Day was set to begin, according to Bronze-rated driver Andrew Haryanto.
The team was originally on the reserve list for this year’s edition of the French classic, until Hardpoint opted to back out of its GTE-Am slot with its No. 99 Porsche 911 RSR-19.
Andrew Haryanto, who will now compete at Le Mans for the second year in a row, says that the prominent Southeast Asian team was then approached by Proton Competition about the possibility of taking over the entry at late notice.
“We were on the waiting list anyway and I think last-minute Hardpoint decided not to participate so that opened up a door for us,” Haryanto told Sportscar365.
“Proton called us, because we were not in contact with Hardpoint and Proton was in contact with both of us.
“Actually, in the back of my head, we knew this was gonna happen maybe.
“So it’s not like a [huge] surprise. Just a bit last minute.”
Despite the very limited preparation time, Haryanto said he was more relaxed about his second Le Mans start, being able to lean on his experience from last year.
“Last year, I didn’t know the track and there were a lot of things to learn,” the Indonesian driver said.
“But this year, I think I’m a bit more relaxed now. I’ll just enjoy it.”
Haryanto will be sharing the car with Alessio Picariello and Martin Rump, who are his co-drivers for the team’s European Le Mans Series campaign as well.
While Picariello was part of the team last year, Rump will be making his debut.
In doing so, he will be making history as the first-ever Estonian driver to race at Le Mans.
“I’m feeling stoked, to be honest,” said Rump.
“I’m lost for words, for this opportunity to happen. It’s been my childhood dream since I became a racecar driver.
“Until recently, I didn’t see a direct next step. I couldn’t see that happening that soon.”
Merrill Won Shootout for WeatherTech Seat
Similarly, Thomas Merrill was a recent addition to another Proton-run Porsche, being the designated Bronze aboard the No.79 WeatherTech Racing entry.
Merrill, who partners Cooper MacNeil and Julien Andlauer, said he earned his seat after coming out on top in a test session at Aragon, which he described as a “shootout”.
“I did everything I could to get in contact and long story short, they set up a test in Aragon in Spain for four of us to go out and run to see who could win the seat,” Merrill told Sportscar365.
“This was two and a half weeks ago. It was fairly recently.”
The test was part of a whirlwind few weeks for the 36-year-old, who then went on to compete in two separate championships in a short space of time.
“It was kind of nutty too, because I had just raced in IMSA at Mid Ohio and flew straight to Spain for the test and then straight back to NOLA for an SRO race, so the jetlag was a little [crazy].”
“It’s been such a whirlwind experience. This race has been a goal of mine that I set for myself, career-wise, ages ago.
“But it came up so last minute, it hasn’t really sunk in yet, that I’m here doing it.
“So I think once I get in the race car and actually turn some real laps, it’ll kind of hit me that I’m actually here and doing it because since I went to Spain, I’ve pretty much been traveling ever since.
“I haven’t had a chance to sit down and really take it in.”
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report