Long struggle culminates in F1 debut for van der Garde

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In 2007, Giedo van der Garde was embroiled in a contract dispute between two back-of-the-grid Formula 1 teams, Spyker and Super Aguri. Each had announced he would be their reserve driver, with Spyker eventually prevailing, but he never participated in a race weekend.

Times have changed. Spyker is now Force India, Super Aguri defunct barely after the 2008 season. And van der Garde, well on the radar of a race seat then but having fallen into relative obscurity since, re-entered the frame with Caterham as one of its reserve drivers a year ago.

Van der Garde participated in five of the last six Friday free practice one sessions, six in total in 2012, and has been confirmed as a race driver for the team this season. At 27, he’s the oldest rookie on the grid by a full four years.

“The main thing for me is that my dream is coming true,” he told the Formula 1 official website in a “rookie diary.” “I told my Dad when I was very young that I was going to be an F1 driver and now it’s happening. I never stopped working for it, never stopped believing it would happen, and with the help and support of a lot of very good people, I’m where I want to be.”

The 2007 season also marked the last time a Dutch driver was on the grid, when Christijan Albers raced for Spyker.

Van der Garde has spent the last four seasons in GP2, and raced in the World Series by Renault before that. He and Caterham teammate Charles Pic, only a sophomore in F1 at age 23, were teammates with the Barwa Addax team in GP2 in 2011.

As a rookie in a team that has yet to score a point in three seasons, expectations are minimal, other than gaining experience and furthering car development.

“Do I feel under pressure? No,” he said. “Not from the team as we’re realistic about what we can do this year. The pressure that does exist is from myself and my trainer. We are preparing as well as possible for the year ahead, but that’s good pressure, the sort that motivates you and pushes you to perform. But pressure on track? No. I know what to do – the team have helped me prepare as well as possible and I’m ready for what’s ahead.”

See also:

F1’s five rookies for 2013: what you need to know

Inside the mind of an F1 rookie

 

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.