If Romain Grosjean thought that he could steal this week's GP2 Series headlines by finally speaking out about his deal with the reigning teams' champion, he looks set to be trumped by the man whose seat he is taking, after Lucas di Grassi was confirmed at drivers' champion Racing Engineering.
With internet rumours hinting at the Brazilian giving up on any aspirations he may have had of graduating to Formula One - or, following the collapse of the Honda team with which he had tested, the IndyCar Series - Crash.net
has received confirmation that di Grassi will indeed be paired with GP2 Series rookie Dani Clos in the 2009 Racing Engineering line-up as the team attempts to retain the crown it won with another veteran, Giorgio Pantano, last year.
"We are extremely happy to have Lucas on board," admitted team principal Alfonso d'Orleans, "Although we won't have it easy, we are aiming to defend the title we won in 2008. There is a lot of hard work ahead, but it should pay off in the best possible way.
“I think, with Lucas and Dani, we have a great driver line-up for 2009. Not only are Dani and Lucas good friends, but I am sure their working relationship will also be very fruitful. With Lucas' experience in GP2 and F1, and also bearing in mind Dani's recent tests in F1, it is logical to think that all our goals will be directed towards winning the drivers' and
teams' titles this season.”
Had he not been keen to put GP2 behind him and graduate to F1 - initially with Renault and, when he was overlooked in favour, ironically, of Grosjean as number three at Enstone, at Honda - di Grassi would surely have been high on the shopping list of most teams, after mounting a title challenge that took him close to Pantano and Bruno Senna despite missing the first three rounds of 2008.
The Brazilian, who replaced Ben Hanley at Campos after Monaco, ultimately finished third in the standings, to add to the runners-up honour he achieved behind Timo Glock in 2007.
“Contrary to last year, I will be able to participate in the GP2 championship from the very beginning," di Grassi noted, "In 2008, I fought for the title and I believe that, after a good season - and testing with Renault F1 and Honda Racing - I am more ready than ever to fight for the title.
"Together with Dani, whom I have known since we both were in the RDD programme, I believe that we can work together to get the team to the top. I feel very motivated and I will push to the limit to bring it home.”
The official confirmation of di Grassi's arrival at the Sanlucar de Barrameda outfit coincides with the announcement that the team will be known as Fat Burner Racing Engineering in 2009.
“We are pleased to welcome Fat Burner as our official sponsor for the 2009 season," d'Orleans commented, unveiling a predominantly red livery to replace the familiar blue-orange-white colours that accompanied previous backers.
"We already had the pleasure to work with Margus Reinsalu, founder of Tone Tea Fat Burner, last year when he sponsored our team with his company KC Grupp. The fact that he decided to continue working with us this season shows his trust in the team and its performance. This is a great moment for Racing Engineering, or should I already say Fat Burner Racing Engineering, and we all hope to carry on achieving successes in GP2. It is our goal that we both can continue progressing to achieve our goals in the future.”