Chennai, Jan 12 (IANS) Expectedly, Karun Chandhok has made the shift from single-seater to touring cars as the Chennai-based Formula One driver, who turns 28 in a week’s time, confirmed Thursday his participation in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) with JRM Racing.
After two seasons in Formula One, with HRT (2010) and Lotus as a reserve driver (2011), Chandhok had cast the net far and wide in a bid to further his racing career.
The newly-launched FIA WEC includes the historic Le Mans 24hrs and Sebring 12hrs races, apart from races at F1 venues Spa-Francorrchamps, Silverstone and Interlagos.
This is the first endurance series of world championship status since the World Sportscar Championship, which ended in 1992.
In a press release here, Chandhok said: “I am very excited to join JRM Racing for the new World Endurance Championship this year. Of course, I am very happy to be racing again.
“At the end of 2011, we explored the options to race in F1 and when it didn’t look like a possibility, I decided to look outside and the WEC presents the next best option.
“The cars are capable of speeds of over 360km/h, the calendar is fantastic and the quality of teams and drivers are very high.”
After a season with Lotus in Formula One, the move to sportscar endurance racing represents a shift for Chandhok from single-seater sprint racing both in terms of race distance and also now sharing a car with two other drivers.
The other two drivers for JRM Racing this year will be David Brabham and Peter Dumbreck who are well known names in the world of Sportscars.
“Doing races which are 6, 12 and even 24 hours is going to be a new challenge. Together with Audi and Peugeot, the Acura LMP1 car that the JRM Racing Team have acquired should be one of the most competitive cars.
“James Rumsey, who owns the team and Nigel Stepney who worked with the Ferrari F1 team in the Schumacher glory days and leads the technical side, seem extremely motivated to do a good job,” added Chandhok.
The series will feature multiple classes of cars competing in endurance races, with sports prototypes competing in the Le Mans Prototype categories, and production-based grand tourers competing in the GT Endurance categories.
The iconic Le Mans 24hrs race is one of the jewels in the crown for any motorsport driver along with the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indy 500.
Chandhok said: “While I am looking forward to the whole championship obviously, to be the first Indian to start at the famous Sebring 12hrs and the Le Mans 24hrs races will be a huge honour.
“I have stood on the podium at the legendary venues of Macau, Silverstone, Spa and Monaco among others in my career so far and Sebring and Le Mans are two other classics which would be great to add to that list one day.”
After winning the 2011 FIA GT1 World Championship with Nissan, the British-based JRM Racing will partner with Honda Performance Developments to enter the brand new FIA World Endurance Championship in the LMP1 class.
JRM Racing will enter a single LMP1 Honda Performance Development ARX-03a powered by a specially designed and tested 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V8 engine. The ARX-03a is currently hailed as the most competitive petrol Le Mans Prototype around, the release said.
JRM Racing Team owner James Rumsey commented: “I am very pleased that Karun has agreed to drive for JRM Racing this year. Together with his F1 experience. He will bring a new dimension to the team.
“Alongside David and Peter we now have a very strong line-up for the World Endurance Championship. Although this will be Karun’s first year in sportscars, I have every confidence that he will be one of the quickest drivers on the grid.”
The series dates are:
March 17: Sebring 12-Hours (USA); May 5: Spa-Francorrchamps 6-Hours (Belgium); June 17: 80th Le Mans 24-Hours (France); Aug 25: Silverstone 6-Hours (UK); Sep 16: Interlagos 6-Hours (Brazil); Sep 30: Mount Fuji 6-Hours (Japan); Oct 20: Bahrain 6-Hours (Bahrain); Nov 11/18: China 6-Hours (China).