A world-class car with a world-class driver at the wheel: it’s a motor racing marriage made in heaven, and the 2012 Formula 1 Qantas Australian Grand Prix will provide it when Heinz-Harald Frentzen takes part in the Porsche City Index Carrera Cup Australia support category at Albert Park from March 15-18.
Porsche is a German icon, so who better to drive the thrilling 911 GT3 Cup car than a German driver with 157 Grand Prix starts, three race victories, two pole positions and six fastest laps in a Formula One career that stretched from Brazil 1994 to Japan 2003.
Frentzen’s debut came with the Sauber team in the opening round of 1994 and he stayed with the Swiss outfit for the first three seasons of his F1 career.
In 1997 he made the move that turned him into a Grand Prix winner, joining the then-dominant Williams team alongside Jacques Villeneuve. While the French-Canadian went on to win that year’s World Championship, Frentzen finished runner-up and recorded his maiden victory.
Two years later, and now a Jordan driver, Frentzen enjoyed a stellar season with two more wins in France and Italy on his way to third place in the drivers’ standings. This was his most successful year in F1, fighting for the World Championship with Jordan until the very last races of the season.
After stints with Prost and Arrows he drove his final F1 season in 2003 back where he started, at Sauber.
Frentzen’s Melbourne record may not include a race win, but in 1997 he led his debut race here for Williams and was challenging for victory when his left front brake disc exploded. Fastest race lap was a minor consolation.
“I have some good memories of Melbourne, although of course I would love to have held on for the win back in 1997,” said Frentzen today.
“For a street circuit, Albert Park is fast, flowing and an interesting challenge for the driver. It has always been, and still is, one of the best tracks on the F1 calendar.
“I have seen footage of the Porsches racing here and it looks as though they are both nimble and powerful enough to be well suited to the track. I’m looking forward to having some fun out there and being really competitive again.”
No stranger to having a roof over his head on track, Frentzen has driven for Opel and Audi in the DTM Championship and for Aston Martin in the Le Mans 24-Hour Race, but this will be the first time he and Porsche have gone racing together.
The 450bhp GT3 Cup car represents Porsche in Carrera Cup competition the world over and is widely regarded as the most successful one-make sports car championship in the world.
Porsche Cars Australia Motorsport Manager, Jamey Blaikie, said that the championship is thrilled that a driver of Heinz-Harald’s stature should come and race in the Porsche Carrera Cup in Australia.
“Heinz-Harald has extraordinary credentials in motorsport worldwide and vast experience racing at the Albert Park circuit, while his recent participation in several forms of motorsport should see him towards the front in the ultra-competitive Carrera Cup field,” he said.
“I have no doubt he’ll quickly adapt to the cars. After asking whether he needed to test the car prior to racing, he quipped that if the steering wheel is on the left and the gear stick is on the right, he’ll be fine.
“F1 fans here will have fond memories of his performances, and we can’t wait to see him compete when he gets behind the wheel of the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.”