DragonSpeed "not here to make up the numbers" in IndyCar
DragonSpeed will not be merely aiming to "make up the numbers" with its part-time 2019 NTT IndyCar Series entry, says driver Ben Hanley.
Sportscar outfit DragonSpeed announced late last year plans to contest five 2019 IndyCar rounds - St. Petersburg, Barber, the Indianapolis 500, Road America and Mid-Ohio - with a solo Chevrolet-powered entry driven by Hanley.
The team, owned by former racer Elton Julian, did not take part in this month's Spring Training sessions at the Circuit of the Americas, while Hanley himself has still yet to drive the Dallara DW12.
As such, the British rookie is keeping his expectations in check, although he insists that DragonSpeed should have loftier ambitions than simply filling out the grid.
"There have been a few, ‘We’d like to do it, can we do it?’-type conversations over the last couple of years," said Hanley when asked how his and the team's plans to enter IndyCar came about.
"LMP1 was a good step for the team to grow and prepare us for potentially being involved in IndyCar and when Elton put the feelers out, he was extremely impressed with how willing IndyCar was to try and get the idea off the ground.
"It wasn’t just him battling behind the scenes on his own: he had some help from IndyCar and I don’t think there’s many championships that would do that for a team. So we’ve got to thank everyone in IndyCar for helping to get the project off the ground. We’re committed to do it and I’m mega-excited."
He added: "We’re viewing it as a stepping stone to becoming fulltime. We’re not underestimating how difficult it’s going to be considering all the fulltimers and all the top teams you have here.
"But at the same time we’re not just here to make up the numbers and we do think we can achieve something."
Hanley has had an unusual career trajectory, finishing runner-up in Formula Renault 3.5 back in 2007 and reaching GP2 (now Formula 2) level in 2008, and then returning to senior karting after he lost his seat.
He kept his hand in open-wheel cars as a development driver for Pirelli before linking up with DragonSpeed in 2016 to start a career in sportscar racing, first in the LMP2 class of the European Le Mans Series.
Since then he has progressed to the FIA World Endurance Championship's top LMP1 class, driving DragonSpeed's customer BR Engineering BR1-Gibson in the 2018/19 'superseason'.
Hanley, 34, believes this experience will stand him in good stead when he makes his IndyCar debut next month in St. Pete.
"Even when I wasn’t racing single-seaters I was doing a lot of development work in GP2, GP3, and a lot of tire work with Pirelli," said the Manchester, UK-born driver.
"That’s stuff that a lot of people wouldn’t know much about but to me it’s a made a huge difference in terms of driving and feedback and how to set up a car.
"And I think the P1 car, with it being 800kg and 650bhp, it's quite a quick car. So all those things put together hopefully puts me in a position to do my best for the team.
"But we’re starting from scratch and the more precise I can be with my feedback, the more I can draw on the experiences I’ve had recently, the quicker we can become competitive.
"This is a huge opportunity for me. I’m thrilled to be here and to be back in a single-seater where initially my career was headed towards. So now I can’t wait to get started."
#81 DragonSpeed: Ben Hanley
Photo by: Art Fleischmann
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