Brendon Hartley says he feels “right at home” in the paddock at Sebring as he makes his first return to sports car racing after a season in Formula 1.
The Kiwi is splitting his time this weekend between SMP Racing and Mustang Sampling Racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship paddocks, respectively.
It has made for a busy return to endurance racing for the former Porsche LMP1 driver who is also undertaking development work on the Porsche Formula E program and his role as simulator driver for the Ferrari F1 team this year.
Hartley’s last sports car racing start came in the 2017 WEC season-ending Six Hours of Bahrain, where he was crowned FIA World Endurance champion for the second time.
A little over a month earlier, he won the Motul Petit Le Mans with Tequila Patron ESM in his most recent WeatherTech Championship start.
“I feel very welcomed,” Hartley told Sportscar365. “I have a lot of history in the WEC paddock and it was nice to see some familiar faces around, and equally in IMSA because I’ve done quite a bit here including a season in Grand-Am.
“Most years I’ve at least done a couple of the endurance races over here and I love the racing here. Sebring’s a real classic so it’s really cool to be doing both races in one weekend.
“I was feeling comfortable at the end of the season in Formula 1 last year, but equally I feel right back at home in the WEC paddock.
“I’ve definitely had a friendly welcome back to the paddock so I’m definitely happy to be back in endurance racing.
“I’m looking forward to it, it’s a really nice entrance back into sports car racing, Sebring, with two top teams. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Hartley has the added challenge of learning two unfamiliar cars this weekend, having never driven either the Cadillac DPi-V.R or BR Engineering BR1 AER before.
He got his first laps in SMP’s BR1 during pre-event testing but only drove the Action Express Racing-run Cadillac DPi for the first time on Thursday.
“They are quite different to be honest,” he said. “It’s my first time in both cars so there’s been a bit to learn.
“I know the track at least, so that’s one thing I didn’t need to learn. Both cars are extremely quick, so hopefully we’ll be fighting for a podium in both.
“I’m feeling comfortable already. It’s going to be different jumping between the two cars because they are very different, but I’m up for the challenge.
“[The BR1] is a tough car to drive, actually, especially on a track like Sebring with all the bumps. It’s going to be the same for everyone but it definitely took a little bit of time to get up to speed.
“I’m feeling comfortable now, back at home in an endurance car.”
Daniel Lloyd and John Dagys contributed to this report.