Vandoorne elevated to reserve driver role at McLaren

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After promoting Formula Renault 3.5 champion Kevin Magnussen to a 2014 race seat, McLaren has elevated another member of its Young Driver Program – Belgian racer Stoffel Vandoorne – to the role of reserve driver behind Magnussen and former World Champion Jenson Button.

“I plan to take my responsibilities as McLaren Mercedes’ official Formula 1 reserve driver very seriously indeed, since I very much enjoy immersing myself in the technical aspects of Formula 1 Grand Prix weekends,” Vandoorne said in a McLaren release.

“I’ll do whatever I can to help the team’s two Formula 1 race drivers, Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen, both of whom are great guys and superb drivers, to achieve as much as they possibly can this season.”

McLaren sporting director Sam Michael was, as you’d figure, high on Vandoorne’s talent, calling him “fast, combative, consistent, intelligent and ambitious.”

“His technical input is first-class, he’s excellent in our simulator, and he isn’t afraid of hard work,” Michael said. “He has a collaborative and engaging manner, and he’s therefore as popular at McLaren as he is helpful.”

Vandoorne finished second to Magnussen in the FR3.5 standings this past season with four wins and 10 podium finishes. In 2014, he will combine his McLaren duties with a full-time program in the GP2 series for the ART Grand Prix team.

The French squad has fielded GP2 championship-winning cars for Nico Rosberg (2005), another ex-World Champion in Lewis Hamilton (2006), and Nico Hulkenberg (2009).

During GP2 and GP3 post-season testing at Abu Dhabi last fall, Vandoorne starred on the GP2 side by setting the fastest lap of the three-day session. He had never driven a GP2 car prior to that test.

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”