Sports car veteran Neel Jani will make a return to open-wheel racing after signing to join Faraday Future Dragon Racing’s Formula E Championship line-up for the 2017-18 season.
The 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship and Le Mans 24 Hours winner’s future in prototype racing had been uncertain amid Porsche’s impending exit from the premier LMP1 category, but the 34-year-old will now race alongside Jérôme d’Ambrosio in the Jay Penske-owned squad.
This will be the Swiss driver’s first open-wheel racing outing in almost seven years.
A part of Red Bull’s racing academy, Jani was a two-time race-winner in his rookie GP2 Series season with Racing Engineering and spent a season as Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Friday practice test driver in 2006. With no F1 race seat available, Jani crossed the Atlantic and enjoyed a strong rookie season in the Champ Car Series where he claimed three podium finishes.
It was in the A1 Grand Prix Series (pictured below) where Jani really made his mark, claiming 10 race wins in his four seasons representing Team Switzerland which peaked with the 2007-8 championship title.
Despite his successes, Jani was unable to break into Formula 1 and by 2012 he was racing full-time in the FIA WEC, joining Porsche’s factory team in 2014. In 2016 he, along with Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas, triumphed to win the Le Mans 24 Hours and clinch the LMP1 Drivers’ Championship title.
“We are thrilled to welcome Neel,” team owner Jay Penske said.
“As a team, we have set our target of winning races and competing for the championship in the coming season, and Neel was an essential component of that equation.
“When you look at the best drivers in the world, from both a racing and car development perspective, Neel is at the top of the list. He’s an excellent fit within our programme.”
Jani joins the American outfit in place of Frenchman Loïc Duval. Teams’ Championship runners-up in the inaugural 2014-15 Formula E Championship season, Dragon Racing dropped to fourth in 2015-16 and slipped further to a lowly eighth overall in 2016-17.
The 2017-18 Formula E Championship season begins with the Hong Kong ePrix double-header on December 2-3.
Images via LAT and XPB Images