Will Stevens sees his long-term future in WEC

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SILVERSTONE – Ahead of his debut in the FIA World Endurance Championship with the new Manor team at Silverstone this weekend, Will Stevens says that he can see his long-term racing future in sportscars.

Stevens made his Formula 1 debut at the end of 2014 with Caterham before spending the full 2015 season with Manor Marussia, recording a best finish of 13th at Silverstone.

Stevens was dropped to make way for Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto at Manor for 2016, leaving him to explore options outside of F1.

Former Manor bosses Graeme Lowdon and John Booth announced in February that they would be setting up an LMP2 team in the WEC for 2016 after falling out with the owner of the F1 operation.

Stevens is one of a number of ex-Manor drivers to join the ‘real’ Manor (as the bosses call it) in the WEC this year, and he is confident that it can hit the ground running in the series at Silverstone this weekend.

“WEC’s a great championship to be part of, but we’re both new to it. We need to learn together,” Steven said.

“I think we’ve got enough experience in the team to hit the ground running. For sure this weekend is going to be tough, but I didn’t come here to not try and win races and finish on the podium.

“I have trust in the team, and they have that in me as well, so I’m hoping for a good result straightaway.”

Stevens said that he sees his long-term future in the WEC, and believes that a number of other drivers are coming to the same realization.

“WEC for me is a great championship. In terms of a career, it’s really where I see the future,” Stevens said.

“I know a lot more guys are seeing that where it needs to be. For me, it’s a great chance to come into it straight into P2 and be with a team I know well.

“Everyone wants to aspire to be with a factory team in LMP1. I think you can see how long people’s careers are in it.

“Longevity wise, it’s where I want to be.”

Stevens is dovetailing his WEC commitments with a drive in the Blancpain GT series, where he shares an Audi with Rene Rast.

Last weekend, he made his debut in the series at Misano in what was actually his first ever race in a car with a roof, having spent his entire career in single seaters.

“It’s a different discipline to what I’ve been used to so far,” Stevens said.

“My first race last weekend was actually really exciting. The first time for a while I’ve had a proper race which was nice. In all honesty I’m really enjoying it.

“We’ve not had too many days under our belt in the P2 car, so we’re learning with every lap we do, that’s for sure. Obviously this year is going to be busy for me, but that’s exactly what I wanted to do coming off of last year.

“I’m really excited about both campaigns. This weekend is going to be cool. P2 looks like a great championship this year. As everyone said, the competition is really strong. We clearly know in the Oreca car, it’s good.

“Myself and Manor are new to the championship. I’ve been with them for a while now, I know they can do a good job. We’ll take it one step at a time.”

Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”