Sydney-Hobart yacht race hero Grant Wharington is taking up a new challenge - racing in the BMW Celebrity Challenge at Melbourne's Formula One Grand Prix meeting.

Wharington will swap sail power for horsepower to race in the event, and admits that he 'over the moon' at getting the opportunity to prove he can be a race winner on four wheels as much as the king of ocean racing. Wharington will swap his 30-metre carbon-fibre yacht Skandia, with its 36-metre mast and 12-metre boom, for a BMW 318ti Sport Compact to drive against 27 other celebrities at the grand prix.

"I'm a bit of a speed freak, I must admit," Wharington said, "I love pushing my racing yacht to get the maximum performance from it and I can't wait to be able to do the same in the BMW on the grand prix track.

"Driving a fast car with no speed restrictions will be the ultimate buzz. To be able to do it on 'home turf' in Melbourne makes it even more exciting for me. The grand prix is a great event and I am thoroughly looking forward to being part of it this year."

Wharington and his 18-man Skandia Wild Thing crew took line honours in the 630-nautical mile Sydney-Hobart classic between Christmas and New Year in just two-and-a-half days.

For the BMW Celebrity Challenge, the yacht's skipper will undergo a week of intensive training under the experienced hand of another man of speed, former Le Mans, Bathurst and US sports car champion Geoff Brabham, who will oversee Wharington and another 27 celebrities during training sessions at Sandown Raceway, which are designed to ensure everyone has the skills, knowledge and awareness of what it takes to get behind the wheel of a 'racing vehicle'.

The 28 318ti Sport Compacts will bring a new look to the Celebrity Challenge, which promises to be the best in BMW's five-year history with the event at Melbourne's grand prix. Over the previous four years the Celebrity Challenge featured the very popular BMW Z3 Roadster and, more recently, the exciting new MINI Cooper, which made its racing debut at Albert Park.



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