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Stanaway: “Sports Cars is Where It’s At Right Now”

Richie Stanaway talks GTE, LMP1 test and leaving single-seaters…

Photo: Aston Martin Racing

Photo: Aston Martin Racing

It was a busy Silverstone weekend for Richie Stanaway, who undertook double duty for Aston Martin Racing, competing in both the FIA World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series races for the team.

The New Zealander is one of many promising young drivers to have made the switch from the open-wheel ladder to sports cars, and speaking to Sportscar365 at Silverstone he admitted that Formula 1 is no longer his ultimate aim.

“Unless someone wanted to pay me to drive their F1 cars, which isn’t going to happen!” he joked, confirming that he would prefer to make a career out of sports car racing. “They’re all bringing money to race in F1, it’s just ridiculous.

“Unfortunately we missed an era 15 years ago when you could just show up, drive for a test team at Barcelona, do a better job than the race drivers, get a contract, and earn millions of dollars and race in Formula 1.

“But those days are over so now it’s just a bunch of pay drivers so I’m completely not interested in it anymore.”

Until this year, Stanaway was competing in open-wheel series, including the GP2 Series in which he scored two victories last year alongside his WEC duties.

His focus has completely switched to GTE for 2016, however.

“Outside of WEC or DTM, a lot of motorsport in the world right now is fairly amateur in terms of where the funding is coming from,” he said.

“As a professional driver, I’m only interested in driving for teams that are able to pay you as a professional and have funding to be able to do that.

“That’s why driving for a manufacturer in WEC is what I’m doing instead of driving for privateer teams in GP2 or having to try and find money to pay to do F1, which doesn’t interest me at all. Sports cars is where it’s at right now.”

After the season-ending Six Hours of Bahrain last November, Stanaway was amongst a few drivers selected to take part in the LMP1 Rookie Test.

The 24-year-old has admitted to taking an interest in the top class after sampling an Audi R18 e-tron quattro for the first time.

“If the opportunity does arise, [LMP1] is something I would definitely consider, and with my GP2 and single-seater experience, it’s something that I would be capable of doing,” Stanaway said.

“But whether or not the opportunity arises is one thing, and second to that I’m pretty comfortable here at AMR. If something else did come up, I would have to consider it for sure.”

Ahead of the WEC season, Stanaway admits that it’s difficult to predict where Aston Martin will be in the GTE-Pro category, owing to the many changes in the class for this year.

Ultimately he and Fernando Rees in the No. 97 Aston Martin V8 Vantage had a series of problems throughout the Silverstone race that ended with the car in the garage.

“So much has changed since last year so it’s kind of hard to know where we’ll be to be honest,” he said.

One of the big changes has been a switch from Michelin to Dunlop tires, as well as downsizng from five to three total GTE entries this year.

“I think it’s good,” Stanaway said of the consolidated effort. “It was half-intentional to try and concentrate our efforts a bit more.

“It’s great to have a five car team but at the same time there are downsides.

“There are so many people and so much more to organize, you sort of dilute your staff a lot more, whereas when you run three cars you can concentrate the effort more.

“We’re really focused on having a good season this year.”

In addition to the WEC race on the Sunday of the race weekend, Stanaway also competed in the Four Hours of Silverstone, which kicked off the ELMS season.

He was among a handful of drivers who attempted both races at the weekend, but he says this gave him an edge on his competition.

“If anything it’s an advantage for me because I did a whole stint [in the ELMS race, so] I basically warmed up before I jumped into the WEC race,” he said. “It was the same with qualifying. It’s more of an advantage for me.

“The ELMS car is basically the same as the car we had last year [in WEC]. A lot of the downforce comes more from over the top of the car as opposed to underneath it like with the new car this year.

“It’s got a new diffuser so we’re taking a lot of downforce from the floor then we’ve got a smaller rear wing and less drag so the car is a lot more efficient.

“Obviously you notice it in the lap time but when you drive the car you don’t notice that big of a difference.”

Stanaway said that he doesn’t expect to do any more ELMS races this season, and that his focus is fully on the WEC effort, in which he will partner Rees and Jonny Adam for the rest of the season.

Jake Kilshaw is a UK-based journalist. He is a graduate of Politics and International Relations.


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