Former Formula 1 driver, Christian Klien has signed to drive for Supercheap Auto Racing in this year’s V8 Supercar endurance races.
Klien will partner 2005 V8 Supercar Champion Russell Ingall in the #66 SCAR Commodore in the Sandown 500 (14-16 September) and the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 at Mount Panorama on 4-7 October – the 50th anniversary of Australia’s Great Race.
The team made the announcement at its Walkinshaw Racing headquarters in Melbourne, where Klien met Ingall and was shown over his new Holden V8 racecar by the two-time Bathurst winner.
Klien started 49 Grand Prix, making his F1 debut for Jaguar in 2004. He also drove for Red Bull and Hispania Racing and raced in the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park three times, finishing seventh with Red Bull in 2005.
He continues to be involved in F1, working for Williams F1 as its simulator driver, testing setups overnight following Friday practice sessions. He drove the simulator as recently as last week, just two days before Pastor Maldonado won the Spanish Grand Prix – Williams’ first victory in eight years.
The 29 year old Austrian has raced a V8 Supercar once previously, partnering Paul Dumbrell in the Armor All Gold Coast 600 last October. He also raced at Mount Panorama in February, finishing ninth overall in the Bathurst 12 Hour GT Production Car race.
“I am very excited with this opportunity, to be joining Supercheap Auto Racing and Russell Ingall for the biggest V8 Supercar races of the year is an honour,” Klien said.
“After the Gold Coast I was determined to come back and do more V8 races. It is a strong championship with extremely competitive racing, massive crowds and excellent TV coverage throughout the world.
“Mount Panorama is one of the world’s great circuits and the Bathurst 1000 is world-famous – it’s a must-do race in any racing driver’s career.
“To be able to take part in the 50th anniversary Bathurst with one of V8’s heroes is exciting – I can’t wait to get to the mountain in October.”
Klien’s signing comes after he underwent a secret test with Walkinshaw Racing last month, completing over 100 laps of Winton Motor Raceway in Bathurst-winner Nick Percat’s Coates Hire V8 development series Commodore.
“I met with [WR Managing Director] Steve Hallam at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide earlier this year and invited me to test for them, which we did last month, ” Klien said.
“The test went very well. After I familiarized myself with the car I worked through a program with the engineers and was able to bring my lap times down.
“Walkinshaw Racing is impressive, it is a very professional racing organization with great resources and personnel – the way the test was structured reminded me very much of Formula One.”
Ingall said Klien was a welcome addition to the Supercheap Auto Racing Holden team.
“Christian is a world class driver who’s reached racing’s pinnacle in Formula 1, so he’s clearly very talented, Ingall said.
“He’s fast and dedicated. He’s flown to Australia four times in the past six months and raced in the Bathurst 12 Hour so he could prepare himself if an enduro drive did eventuate – that says a lot about his character.
“Bathurst is extremely important to this team, not only is it our sponsor, Supercheap Auto’s race, but this year’s also the 50th anniversary, so it is going to be big.
“The pressure’s going to be on, but Christian’s used to that. He’s the sort of bloke we wanted on our team and I know he’s going to do a great job.”
Klien has also been a test driver for the Honda and BMW F1 teams and drove for Peugeot Sport Total in the Le Mans 24 Hour classic, finishing third outright in 2008 with Ricardo Zonta and Franck Montagny. He finished sixth the following year with Pedro Lamy and Nicolas Minassian.
Klien will make his debut in Supercheap Auto Racing Holden colours at Phillip Island tomorrow (Friday) when he takes part in the enduro co-driver sessions during practice for this weekend’s Phillip Island 300.