Nico Hulkneberg is set to achieve a lifelong ambition this year – to take part in the Le Mans 24 hour race. When the deal was announced last November, the German remarked, “I am very pleased the 2015 Formula 1 calendar allows for it and I’m grateful to my Force India team’s generosity to let me go for it. Now it’s up to me to work hard to satisfy both commitments.”
However, the Formula One calendar almost hi-jacked Hulkneberg’s preparation for the greatest endurance motor race of them all, when in December the F1 Grand Prix of Korea was briefly resurrected and scheduled for this coming weekend.
Hulkenberg will debut for Porsche in this weekend, at the WEC, ‘6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps’ event at the historic Belgium venue.
For some, the era when drivers competed in different series such as Formula One, Sports car racing and on the ovals of North America was a golden time for motorsports. The drivers themselves commanded great respect, because the cars were beasts to handle and each series required completely different skills from those piloting the racing machines.
The perception of Formula One cars today is that they are too easy to drive and the arrival of a 17 year old Dutchman this year has been used as evidence of this.
It is rare these days that top level drivers compete in different top level racing series. Le Mans winner André Lotterer had a brief foray into F1 in 2014 with the doomed Caterham team, though his race was over before it began.
The last full time Formula 1 driver to combine Le Mans with his regular racing schedule was Sébastien Bourdais in 2009, with Toro Rosso and Peugeot respectively.
Motorsports fans could have been treated to another current F1 big name driver participating in the WEC series in 2015, however as Spanish publication Marca reports, Alonso was frustrated at the final hurdle.
The Spaniard told the BBC last year, “To win the Le Mans 24 Hours means a lot to any driver, so one day hopefully I will race there,” and it appears a deal was done in November that would see Fernando Alonso race also for Porsche at the French blue ribbon event this year.
Marca claims the publication of the rather strange draft calendar which included the temporary resurrection of the Korean GP, scuppered any hope Alonso had of racing in WEC this year.
This if course raises questions regarding influence and self-interest. McLaren clearly do not want one of their star drivers representing another sports car brand which competes with the McLaren road car division.
The ‘fake’ Korean race appears to have solved a sticky contractual problem quite nicely. Alonso presumably had a get out clause with Porsche based on his potential Formula One duties.
However, fans of Motorsport have been denied seeing one of the best Formula One drivers for a generation competing in Le Mans.