Presenting #McLarenAndMe, the @alex_wurz edition
Delve into Wurzys McLaren story here: mclrn.co/AlexWurz
ALEX WURZ NAMED GRAND MARSHAL OF THE 2016 LE MANS 24 HOURS
In 2016 Alex Wurz will follow in the footsteps of Henri Pescarolo, Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen as the Grand Marshal of the 84th Le Mans 24 Hours.
Austrian Alexander Wurz began his sporting career on two wheels (without an engine!). In 1986 he won the BMX World Championship and filled the runner-up spot in the European Championship. He then climbed up the different steps on the motor racing ladder over a 10-year period starting with karts followed by Formula Ford and Formula 3.
On Sunday 16th June 1996 Wurz’s sporting destiny was turned upside down. On his maiden outing in the Le Mans 24 Hours he won the race with American Davy Jones and Manuel Reuter from Germany at the wheel of a TWR-Joest Porsche. This success opened the door of Formula 1 to him, and he raced in 69 grands prix for Benetton and Williams as well as doing a long stint at McLaren as a test driver.
In 2008, he was back in the Sarthe in a Peugeot seeing the chequered flag in fifth place with Pedro Lamy and Stéphane Sarrazin. The following year he won the race for the second time in a Peugeot shared with David Brabham and Marc Gené, 13 years after his first victory. Wurz drove for the French make for another two years scoring two more major victories, the Sebring 12 Hours in 2010 and the Petit Le Mans in 2011.
In 2012, the Austrian was the first driver recruited by Toyota when the Japanese car company decided to make its Le Mans and world endurance championship comeback. The same year he scored the make’s first victory in the world championship with Nicolas Lapierre in the Sao Paulo 6 Hours followed by two more wins in the Fuji and Shanghai 6 Hours. He came first again at Fuji the following year. He started the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours from pole (set by his team-mate, Kazuki Nakajima) in the TS040 Hybrid and led the race for 15 hours backed up by the Japanese and Frenchman Stéphane Sarrazin. But this time Lady Luck didn’t smile on him and he was forced to retire at 05h00 on Sunday morning. The Austrian driver hung up his helmet on 21st November after the Bahrain 6 Hours, the final round of the 2015 WEC.
His Sarthe score card reads: eight starts, two victories (1996 and 2009), two fourth places (2011 and 2013), and an eighth place (2015) and three retirements (2010, 2012 and 2015).
Today 41-year-old Wurz, married with three children, is an ambassador for the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) and president of the GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers Association).
As Grand Marshal Alex will have the privilege of driving the pace car, the official vehicle that leads the drivers during the formation lap and pulls off at the end of that lap when the French flag is lowered to unleash the pack. He will also be present at the various events organised during the Le Mans 24-Hours week.
Alex Wurz On Daytona With Ganassi: “It’s a Very Cool Thing”
This article first appeared on Racer.com
„It’s so cool to say ‘I’ll see you in Daytona,“ Alex Wurz said. „It’s a name that might be very normal for you, but in Europe, it’s a very prestigious name; it means a lot.“
Wurz was beaming while he spoke of his upcoming debut with the defending Rolex 24 at Daytona race winners Ford Chip Ganassi Racing. The Austrian hung up his helmet at the conclusion of the FIA World Endurance Championship season in November, and was expected to ease into retirement after a long career in Formula 1 and in sports cars, where he earned two overall wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
But he couldn’t turn down an invitation from the six-time Rolex 24 winners to pursue to the one major endurance racing victory missing from his CV.
„Yes, definitely,“ Wurz told Marshall Pruett. „For me, there are four classic endurance races: Le Mans, Petit Le Mans, Sebring, and Daytona. The first three I have already won, and so I always said Daytona was missing from the list…and there’s a very nice watch you get for winning it that I want…“
Getting a call from the most successful team over the last decade at the Rolex 24 also made a difference in Wurz’s decision.
„The timing was very funny when the team contacted me,“ he said. „Daytona is a race I always wanted to do, but with testing for all the factory team each January, I never had the chance. They called me on the day I announced I was retiring… (laughs). I said, ‘the timing is a little odd, but I would love to do it…if it’s OK for you I’m retiring from professional racing!“
Wurz decision to step away from his Toyota TS040s 1000-horsepower LMP1 machine wasn’t a deterrent for Ganassi when inquiring about a one-off appearance in the team’s Ford EcoBoost Daytona Prototype. “I have no plans to go back into full-time racing, and they said that was cool and they wanted a good spirit for the car,” he continued. “Ganassi is one of the best, if not the best team and to race at Daytona with them is a really cool thing.”
Wurz close friend and fellow retiree Dario Franchitti won two Indy 500s, three IndyCar championships, and the 2008 Rolex 24 with Ganassi, and continues to work with the team as a driver coach and consultant.
Look for the newest member of the Ganassi family to draw from Franchitti’s experience with the team, and at Daytona, to accelerate his learning curve.
„Dario came down to Monaco when I had a small party at my house and he knew what was happening, and he has a lot of experience in the U.S. racing scene,“ Wurz added. „I will be looking for guidance and pull a few friendship favors for the race over the 24 hours when the track is changing, and the team is good and experienced and will help also, but it’s good to have a good driver friend like Dario to help for sure.“
The choice to race at Daytona, according to Wurz, is more about personal enjoyment than a quick reversal of his retirement plans.
„I’m definitely not interested in a full-time seat; I’m flat out working over the holidays, working on track design, which I want to be part of my future, but if it’s a one-off like Daytona, that should be OK,” he said. „As long as I’m fit and fast, maybe I’ll do the odd race. After Daytona I’d like to do a Rallycross event in a smaller race to see what my father did because he was a Rallycross champion. But I’m done chasing full-time factory drives.“