Having been overlooked by Ross Brawn for the final Formula 1 seat in 2009 in favour of the more experienced Rubens Barrichello, Bruno Senna has accepted an offer to try out for front-running Le Mans Series outfit Team Oreca Matmut during the group test at Paul Ricard today.
After insisting in an exclusive interview with Crash.net
that securing a drive with close links to F1 remains his top priority [see separate story – click here
], a sportscar switch may appear like a strange path to pursue for the young Brazilian, but then following similar test outings for former World Rally Champion Petter Solberg and defending World Touring Car Champion Yvan Muller back at the beginning of last month [see separate story – click here
], Oreca certainly seems like the place to be.
Senna is not altogether a stranger to sportscars either, having stormed to a double victory on a guest appearance in the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli European Series at Silverstone in mid-2007 to mark the Scuderia's
60th anniversary. However, getting behind the wheel of a prototype, he admits, will be an entirely new experience.
“I would like to thank Oreca and Mr. (Hugues) de Chaunac for this opportunity,” the 25-year-old remarked. “It will certainly give me an insight into an area of my profession I have not seen before.
“While I do not want to be distracted from my target of driving in F1, there are a number of opportunities that will certainly improve my performance when that time comes. This is one of them, and I am looking forward to the challenge.
“I have proven my racing ability with my results in GP2, but when I get my chance to race in Formula 1 I want to be able to contribute as much as possible technically. With the restrictions in F1 testing now, it is difficult for young drivers to develop in this way – but by using my time constructively like this, I believe I can make myself stand out from the crowd.”
Senna will share driving duties of one of Oreca's Courage LC70s with former Monaco Grand Prix winner Olivier Panis and ex-GP2 star Nicolas Lapierre – both already re-confirmed at the French squad for 2009 – as well as 1998 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Stéphane Ortelli and endurance specialist Soheil Ayari, taking to the track around Paul Ricard's full-length, 5.8km-layout for the first time. He already has considerable experience of the shorter circuit used in GP2 testing.
With top speeds of more than 200mph, a large technical programme to get through and a big team working into the night, team boss de Chaunac believes it is exactly the kind of experience that will help to ease the reigning GP2 Series runner-up's progress into F1 when the opportunity arises.
“I understand that the goal for Bruno is clearly F1,” the Frenchman acknowledged, “but with so few opportunities for young guys to test in F1 now, we felt it would be a good alternative to gain mileage in an LMP1 car.
“At the moment this invitation is just for Bruno to join our test, which will continue into the night. It should be a new experience for him – and probably the longest test day he will ever do.”