McLaren increases factory driver stable as Blancpain GT plans come together
13 Mar 2017
- Jonny Kane and Dean Stoneman added to the Factory Driver line-up
- All Factory Drivers to feature in Blancpain GT Series
- Jazeman Jaafar a new addition to the McLaren GT Driver Academy
- Four members of the GT Driver Academy to race for Strakka Racing
McLaren has confirmed British drivers Jonny Kane and Dean Stoneman as additions to its Factory Driver roster for 2017, which has grown to five drivers as the season plans have been finalised. The growth in its elite driver stable showcases an increasing commitment to the top levels of customer GT racing around the world as the 650S GT3 enters its third season of competition.
McLaren is also delighted to confirm that all five Factory Drivers – Rob Bell, Jonny Kane, Côme Ledogar, Alvaro Parente and Dean Stoneman – will provide the foundation for customer team Strakka Racing’s ambitious Blancpain GT Series Pro class driver line-up as part of the expansion.
26-year-old Briton Stoneman, moves into GT racing after a successful career racing in single-seaters winning the F2 title in 2010, achieving a stellar set of results racing in GP3 in 2014 as well as racing in GP2 and Indy Lights in recent years. For his maiden GT season with McLaren, Stoneman will take part in the Blancpain Endurance Cup rounds with Strakka Racing.
Jonny Kane meanwhile, who has a slew of experience in sportscar racing, will compete with his Strakka Racing in the full Blancpain season and the SprintX championship with customer team K-PAX Racing. The Northern Irishman has previously won the Le Mans 24 Hours LMP2 class – with Strakka Racing in 2010 – and has raced at the iconic race and across Europe multiple times with other leading manufacturer efforts.
Côme Ledogar, Alvaro Parente and Rob Bell will also compete with Strakka Racing in the Blancpain GT Series as part of their busy 2017 schedules.
2016 Blancpain Endurance Champion Rob Bell will take on three programmes. He will return for another full Blancpain GT season with Strakka Racing, as well as race with Balfe Motorsport in the International GT Open series and Clearwater Racing in Blancpain GT Asia.
Of the three returning Factory Drivers from 2016, Parente and Ledogar will not complete a full season in the SRO-organised Blancpain paddock. Ledogar will compete in the Blancpain Endurance Cup as well as his previously announced International GT Open and the Australian GT Championship commitments with customer outfits Garage 59 and Tekno Autosports respectively. Parente, meanwhile, will compete in just the Sprint Cup rounds once again to allow him to focus fully on defending his Pirelli World Challenge title with K-PAX Racing.
In addition to the Blancpain programmes being confirmed for McLaren Factory Drivers, four GT Driver Academy members will join Strakka Racing for its four-car McLaren 650S GT3 programme in Europe. Of the nine McLaren graduates, Andrew Watson and newcomers Ben Barnicoat, David Fumanelli, Loris Hezemans and Jazeman Jaafar will all make their race debuts with the Silverstone-based team this year.
Jaafar – the latest GT Driver Academy signee – enters his second year of GT racing in 2017. The Malaysian 24-year-old has made appearances in various single-seater series’ as part of his budding career including multiple seasons in Formula Renault 3.5 in addition to his GT commitments in both the Blancpain Endurance and Sprint Cups.
In addition to his European commitments, Barnicoat will compete in the SprintX Championship with K-PAX Racing as part of its two-car GT3 programme in the growing American-based series.
Notes to Editors:
A selection of high resolution images accompanying this release is available to download from the McLaren Automotive media site – cars.mclaren.press.
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McLaren Automotive is a British manufacturer of luxury, high-performance sports and super cars, located at the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC) in Woking, Surrey. For the past 30 years, McLaren has pioneered the use of carbon fibre in vehicle production and since introducing a carbon chassis into racing and road cars with the 1981 McLaren MP4/1 and 1993 McLaren F1 respectively, McLaren has not built a car without a carbon fibre chassis.
Following the global launch of McLaren Automotive in 2010, the groundbreaking 12C was revealed in 2011, the 12C Spider in 2012, and the limited-run McLaren P1™ went into production in 2013. In keeping with its plan to introduce a new model each year, the company unveiled the 650S, in Coupé and Spider form in 2014, while 2015 proved to be a year of unprecedented growth of the product portfolio with five new models launched across the full range. The strictly limited edition 675LT Coupé premiered at the Geneva Motor Show alongside the track-only McLaren P1™ GTR which, with 1,000PS, became the most powerful model ever produced by the brand. The much-anticipated Sports Series became the third – and final – model tier in the McLaren range with the 570S Coupé and 540C Coupé debuting in New York and Shanghai respectively, less than one month apart. The end of 2015 saw the launch of the fifth model, the 675LT Spider, which was as a direct response to customer demand. The year also saw the end of production for the first model in the Ultimate Series as the 375th McLaren P1™ was completed, closing what had become a defining year for the British brand. 2016 continued where 2015 had left off with the introduction of the 570GT - a second bodystyle for the Sports Series and the most luxurious car McLaren has ever built, as well as the 570S GT4 and 570S Sprint track variants. 2016 also marked the introduction of the company’s new business plan, Track22, which sees the company investing £1 billion in Research and Development to deliver 15 all new cars or derivatives by the end of 2022, of which at least 50 percent will feature hybrid technology. The uplift in sales in 2016 also saw the launch of the second shift at the McLaren Production Centre as well as the company’s third year of profitability in just six years of trading.
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