Toyota World Endurance Championship driver Mike Conway will replace 1997 Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve at the Venturi Formula E Team from the upcoming Buenos Aires ePrix.
The change comes after a torrid start to the season for Villeneuve, the 1995 Indianapolis 500 & CART Series Champion, who has failed to score a point in the three ePrix he has contested. The Canadian finished one lap down for 14th place in Beijing after being hit by António Félix da Costa and scored eleventh place in Putrajaya before failing to start the Punta del Este race following a heavy crash during qualifying.
Despite positive comments made by the driver following December’s in-season test day in Punta del Este, Venturi and Villeneuve have parted ways by what the team says is ‘mutual consent’.
Villeneuve’s departure from Formula E ends yet another short-lived chapter in the 44-year-old’s post-F1 career, which came to a close in mid-2006.
In the past ten years the Canadian has competed at Le Mans, NASCAR and the Middle East’s Speedcar series, the South American Top Race V8 touring car championship, World Rallycross and even a few cameos in V8 Supercars as both a solo driver and a co-driver. He also had a one-off run in last year’s Indianapolis 500, twenty years after his stunning victory at the Speedway.
Joining Venturi is another former IndyCar racer in Mike Conway, who since 2014 has competed as a member of Toyota’s LMP1 squad in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Buenos Aires will not be the first time Conway has driven a Formula E car, having tested and initially being confirmed to drive for Dragon Racing in the inaugural season, however he withdrew before it started due to an increase in his WEC commitments – which at the time were also being run parallel to racing in the IndyCar Series.
The Briton will have a very familiar face in the Venturi garage: his WEC co-driver Stéphane Sarrazin will be his Formula E teammate, a fact that will no doubt ease Conway’s adaptation to the Formula E car and series. Fellow Toyota driver (and current Formula E championship leader) Sébastien Buemi also is further down pit lane at the Renault e.dams team.
Gildo Pastor, founder of the Venturi Formula E Team, is excited to have Conway in the car: “We are proud to welcome Mike who is a born competitor. He is already involved with several international championships including WEC and IndyCar with several victories.”
Conway is eager to join the series, particularly with Venturi: “Venturi is a top team in Formula E so it’s great to be able to join. The series is innovative and quite unique. It is quickly growing momentum and it’s attractive to a lot of manufacturers to showcase their technologies, so it’s exciting to be a part of the series.”
Since stepping away from oval racing in 2012, Conway became known as somewhat of a street circuit specialist in IndyCar, and having twice won the Long Beach Grand Prix (2011 and 2014) he now has the opportunity to claim ‘matching set’ with a win in April’s Long Beach ePrix.
That the Formula E Championship is run exclusively on street circuits is a fact not lost on Conway. “I have always liked street tracks. They are normally very bumpy and there are different grip levels throughout the lap so they are a lot of fun!” he added.
No public comment has yet been issued by Villeneuve regarding his departure from Venturi.
The next round of the 2015-16 FIA Formula E Championship resumes with the Buenos Aires ePrix on Saturday February 6.
Image via FIA Formula E Championship
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