Highcroft Racing has finalised its driver line-up for its debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with three-time race winner Marco Werner joining Marino Franchitti and last year's victor David Brabham.
The reigning American Le Mans Series LMP1 champions will campaign the Honda Performance Development factory-backed ARX-01c chassis in the LMP2 class as it makes its debut at the French classic, and, with three Le Mans victories in a row between 2005-07, selecting former Audi favourite Werner to fill the available third-driver role was an easy decision for Highcroft boss Duncan Dayton as he sought a high-calibre replacement for resident Frenchman Simon Pagenaud, who is committed to Peugeot's factory LMP1 team at Le Mans.
"It has been fun to see that hot pink helmet of Marco's in a green car," Dayton noted after the German - who also has three Sebring wins, a Daytona 24 Hours title and ALMS LMP1 honours to his credit - joined the team for testing at Sebring.
"With our team going to Le Mans for the first time this year, we have quite a bit to learn. Obviously, we will rely a lot on David's expertise and experience but, when it came to completing our driver line-up, it was important for us to find somebody who had great experience and knew how to win there. Marco knows the rhythm of the race and the weekend and, clearly, when he became available, there was certainly nobody else we could grab to help us quickly learn how to win there.
"Now that he is in an LMP2 car, he's probably never gone so slow down the straight - but so fast through the corners - over the past ten years. It is a totally different driving style that he has to get used to in this car, but he did a great job in the test. He is an consummate professional and has been very consistent with his times. Driving this car does give your neck a bit of a beating but, by the time we get to France, he will be ready to go. I'm very excited about our entire line-up of David, Marino and Marco and I believe we have a very strong package for our debut at Le Mans."
Following its second place in LMP2 at this year's Sebring 12 Hours, the Highcroft squad stayed on at the historic Florida venue for two days of testing on Monday and Tuesday - taking advantage of the opportunity to provide Werner with some valuable seat-time alongside his new team-mates.
"Compared to the Audi, this is going to be a completely different world for me, and I am really looking forward to driving the car at Le Mans," the German said, "I know the car in Sebring as an LMP2 was very competitive and it is much lighter than the Audi, so I'm looking forward to having a much more agile car to drive. It will be very different at Le Mans. We know that LMP2 and LMP1 are in a different world but, at circuits like Sebring, there isn't that much difference."
Highcroft Racing will be the sole American team contesting the LMP2 class at this year's French endurance classic. While team-owner Dayton has contested the race as a driver in the past, this year's Le Mans will not only be the team's 24 Hour debut, but also its first overseas race.
"I'm very proud to be joining the team for Le Mans as I think we have a great chance to win the LMP2 class," Werner continued, "Highcroft is a real high-level team and we have a great driver line-up with David and Marino. You obviously need a complete package for Le Mans, and a little bit of luck, but I think we will be the team to beat.