Former F1 driver Christian Klien has signed to drive for Supercheap Auto Racing in this year's V8 Supercar endurance races, having failed to secure a return to the top flight.
Although a brief partnership with HRT at the end of 2010 gave the Austrian hope that he may be able to resurrect an F1 career that stalled after he parted company with Red Bull, the Spanish team's preference for Tonio Liuzzi condemned him to sports and touring cars, where he finished third and sixth at Le Mans for Peugeot Sport. Having been a test driver for both Honda and BMW in F1, he retains a link to the top flight with a regular ride in Williams' simulator. Buoyed by his part in Pastor Maldonado's unexpected success in Spain last weekend, Klien has inked a deal to partner Russell Ingall in the two long-distance V8 races at Sandown and Bathurst.
The Supercheap team made the announcement at its Walkinshaw Racing headquarters in Melbourne, where Klien met Ingall and was shown over the #66 SCAR Holden Commodore he will share with the two-time Bathurst winner and 2005 series champion.
Klien is no stranger to V8 Supercars, having partnered Paul Dumbrell in last October's Armor All Gold Coast 600, and is familiar with Mount Panorama, having contested February's Bathurst 12 Hour race for GT cars, but is looking forward to bringing both together this season.
“I am very excited with this opportunity, to be joining Supercheap Auto Racing and Russell Ingall for the biggest V8 Supercar races of the year is an honour,” the 29-year old said, “After the Gold Coast, I was determined to come back and do more V8 races. It is a strong championship with extremely competitive racing, massive crowds and excellent TV coverage throughout the world.
“Mount Panorama is one of the world's great circuits and the Bathurst 1000 is world-famous – it's a must-do race in any racing driver's career. To be able to take part in the 50th anniversary Bathurst with one of V8's heroes is exciting – I can't wait to get to the mountain in October.”
The deal came about after Klien completed a secret test with Walkinshaw Racing at Winton last month, completing over 100 laps in Bathurst-winner Nick Percat's Coates Hire V8 development series Commodore.
“I met with [WR managing director] Steve Hallam at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide earlier this year and he invited me to test for them, which we did last month,” Klien confirmed, “The test went very well [and], after I familiarised myself with the car, I worked through a programme with the engineers and was able to bring my lap times down.
“Walkinshaw Racing is impressive, it is a very professional racing organisation with great resources and personnel – the way the test was structured reminded me very much of F1.”
Ingall, not one to suffer fools gladly, admitted Klien was a welcome addition to the Supercheap Auto Racing Holden team.