Karun Chandhok confirms return to Le Mans
New Delhi, April 8 (IANS)
Indian racing driver Karun Chandhok on Wednesday confirmed that he will return to the historic Le Mans 24 hours' race on June 13-14.
The first Indian to drive at Le Mans in 2012 goes back targeting the podium at the iconic race. For the third year in succession, Chandhok will race with Murphy Prototypes in the Oreca 03R Nissan-powered LMP2 car. He will be joined by GP2 driver Nathaniel Berthon and the experienced Mark Patterson.
The Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) category this year is more competitive than it has ever been with new cars from Oreca and HPD as well as a more developed Ligier. However, the team is optimistic following a strong pre-season test at Paul Ricard earlier this month.
"Le Mans is one of the greatest races in the world and my ambition to be the first Indian on the podium is still burning strongly within. I am happy to be back with Murphy Prototypes as we have always worked really well together," said Chandhok.
"Nathaniel was very quickly up to speed last year and now has a year of sportscar racing under his belt and Mark has improved a great deal from when we raced together in 2013. We've got a strong line-up. We had a lot of speed and potential in the last two years there but the results didn't work out for variety of reasons. Hopefully, third time lucky!"
The 31-year-old is currently racing in the first ever electric racing series -- Formula E -- with Mahindra Racing. The Chennai-born had two strong finishes at the season opening Beijing ePrix and Putrajaya ePrix by finishing fifth and sixth, respectively, but failed to live up in the next four races.
"We're still halfway through the Formula E season and there's plenty of work to do. But equally, pursuing my career in sportscars is still very important to me. There are more and more manufacturers coming into sportscar racing and having a good result in LMP2 is the perfect way to put yourself back in the shopping window for a full factory drive," said Chandhok.
"It's going to be a very busy few weeks in May and June with five out of six weekends on track for Formula E races in Berlin, Moscow and London and then the Le Mans test and race alternating in between."
The Le Mans 24 hours is widely regarded as part of the three crown jewels of motorsport along with the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500. The 13.6 km long circuit at Le Mans winds through the French countryside with cars touching top speeds of 315 kmph. The race distance is more than 5,000 km. Last year saw a record 263,300 spectators at the circuit to witness the race.
Chandhok, who has a highest finishing position of sixth place, will return to the La Sarthe circuit where the race traditionally starts at 3 p.m. on a Saturday and finishes at 3 p.m. on Sunday.