Former Renault development driver Ben Hanley will end a five-year absence from the cockpit in this year’s European Le Mans Series. The 31-year-old Briton, who was a contemporary of Romain Grosjean and Lucas di Grassi in Renault’s young driver scheme in 2006-’08, will drive the DragonSpeed team’s ORECA-Nissan 05 in the LMP2 class in the six-race ELMS.
Hanley’s last car racing came in 2010 with four appearances in Superleague Formula with the GU Racing Olympiacos squad. He will share the ORECA with former Toyota LMP1 driver Nicolas Lapierre and DragonSpeed regular Henrik Hedman.
DragonSpeed boss Elton Julian explained that he had gone looking for the “best possible silver-rated driver” after a deal for Frankie Montecalvo to drive the car fell through.
“I think I might have found the best silver out there,” Julian said. “I also feel like I am doing a good thing by giving such a big talent and a real racer another chance.”
Elton said that completing the line-up with a silver driver would give the team more strategic options by reducing the amount of time bronze-rated Hedman will have to spend in the car during the four-hour races.
Hanley is rated as a silver despite finishing second in the 2007 Formula Renault 3.5 series with Prema, as well as racing in GP2, courtesy of his period of inactivity. He returned to karting in 2009 as his single-seater career wound down and won last year’s European KF title.
“This will be my first season in cars since 2010 and first in sportscars, so I need to get back into the swing and learn a new discipline at the same time,” he said. “Even so, I aim to be up to speed quickly and contributing to achieving the team’s goals.”
Hanley will get his first taste of the DragonSpeed ORECA when it undertakes a shakedown ahead of the ELMS opener at Silverstone on April 16, following the car’s return from the Sebring 12 Hours.
DragonSpeed, which is moving up to LMP2 ranks after a year in the Blancpain Endurance Series in 2015, is giving its new ORECA a debut in the second round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Sebring to prepare for its ELMS campaign.
Former Peugeot LMP1 driver Nicolas Minassian will join Lapierre and Hedman in the car for the 12 Hours on March 19.