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De Jong to debut at Valencia for Rapax
20 June 2012
The Netherlands will have three drivers on the starting grid for this weekend's GP2 Series races on the streets of Valencia, with news that 19-year-old Daniël de Jong will be taking over at the wheel of the #21 Rapax car.
It will be de Jong's GP2 début after racing for the last four years in various Formula Renault competitions, and in AutoGP for Manor MP Motorsport since the middle of the 2011 season. De Jong had previously taken part in the pre-season GP2 tests at Jerez with the team.
"This is an exciting time for my career," said the Dutch teenager. "I'm really happy to have been able to agree a deal with the guys at Rapax to make my GP2 début and I'd like to take this chance to thank the team for giving me the opportunity."
"We're also proud to be bringing a promising young driver like De Jong to his maiden GP2 Race," said Rapax team owner Gianfranco Sovernigo. "We met with Daniel in the 2012 pre-season tests and we've always been in-touch with the goal of working together for 2013."
Instead, the chance for de Jong to make his GP2 début has come sooner than expected, after news that regular driver Ricardo Teixeira would be "unavailable due to health issues," according to the team press release.
“We got the news of Teixeira's illness at the eve of the round at Valencia, and we wish him a quick comeback," said Sovernigo, adding that the selection of de Jong as a replacement for Teixeira had "been a logical decision" in the circumstances.
No further word was available as to Teixeira's situation - but it appears that it could sideline him for some time, with the Rapax press release adding: "The whole team want to wish Ricardo a really speedy recovery."
De Jong's website went on to reveal that de Jong "will race one of the Rapax V8-engined Dallaras at four of the seven remaining GP2 Series events" in 2012. That suggests that as well as Valencia, de Jong will also be in the Rapax car at Silverstone and Hungary in July as well as Spa-Francorchamps at the end of August - the rounds where the AutoGP World Series doesn't have conflicting races during the same weekend.
The official news from Rapax supersedes initial inaccurate suggestions from European source at the start of the week that had suggested de Jong's chance in GP2 would come at Tom Dillmann's expense. If that had been the case then it would have most likely have had to be down to budgetary reasons, since Dillmann's form has been impressive in his rookie season but the team's race budget had been mainly supplemented by the Angolan oil and gas company Sonangol backing Teixeira.
The team said that Dillmann's car would now carry the the Angolan banner and the colours of Sonangol during the Spanish outing for GP2. "We'll do our best together with Dillmann to keep the Angolan banner and the Sonangol name high in Spain," said Sovernigo.
For his part, de Jong realises that getting to grips with the Valencia street circuit is no easy way to get his first taste of GP2 competition. "It's going to be a really big challenge to step into the GP2 Series in the middle of the season but I can't wait to get out there in Valencia," he said.
"It's a great opportunity for me. I know it's going to be the biggest challenge of my career so far but I'm hoping we can do a good job and move forward from Valencia on – let's see how it goes!”
The other Dutch drivers currently racing in GP2 are Giedo van der Garde at Caterham Racing, and Nigel Melker currently installed at Ocean Racing Technology.
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