Palmerston North teenager, Brendon Hartley, has re-signed for another season with the Red Bull junior development programme in the European Formula Renault championships.
He will be with a new team for 2007, Epislon Euskadi based in Spain. The team currently runs cars in the World Series by Renault in the V6 (3.5 litre) and 2.0 litre programmes.
Brendon will be contesting the Italian and European Formula Renault 2.0 litre championships and will move house to Fuschl-am-See in the Salzkammergut Lake District, 25 kilometres east of Salzburg in Austria, the home of Red Bull GmbH. It’s also where Red Bull sports academy training centre is based.
Drivers are regularly fitness-tested although Brendon says they are not “told” what to do but expected to maintain a certain standard. All Red Bull drivers are required to attend the sports facility for fitness testing and sports psychology. On a recent visit to the centre, Brendon spent three days training with American Formula One driver, Scott Speed.
With the final Barcelona round of the championship remaining, Brendon is currently lying in 12th position in his inaugural season. He says that re-signing with Red Bull to contest a new season means there will be greater expectations on him next year.
“I was never asked or expected to win this year, it was all about learning the tracks, the style of driving and I’ve learned a lot.
“I can honestly say it’s one of the hardest series to win and going into the last meeting there are six possible winners which shows how competitive it is.
“I expected it to be hard but my pace has been good enough to be in the top five and next year, because of the experience this year, I will be expected to improve and to win races”.
The 16-year-old has been flatting in Oschersleben in Germany for his first season with his mechanic, Rob Fergusson, and team-mate, John Edwards from the USA, who next year will drive in the American Atlantic series under the Red Bull banner
“The fact that I am living independently means I have benefited by learning life skills and adapting to the European way of life.
“I’m not too lonely and always in contact with friends and family in New Zealand and the longer I stay here, the more I’m into a routine and getting used to it”.
Brendon will undergo an intensive testing programme after the last round of the European championship at the end of October and then come back to New Zealand (which he describes as his favourite place on earth) in time for Christmas. But he will not contest the local Toyota Racing Series as he had hoped.
New rules introduced to the Formula Renault Series means a testing ban is in place between January and March inclusive for those drivers signed for next season’s series and this precludes running in the Tatuus chassis of the Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand.
His Auckland manager, Peter (PJ) Johnston, says negotiations to sign Brendon for another season went smoothly.
“Dr Helmut Marko was very happy with Brendon’s progress throughout the season.
“He improved in every race and next year everyone expects him to be competitive”.
After a summer holiday in the Southern Hemisphere, Brendon Hartley will head back to Europe in February 2007.