Richie Stanaway has announced his sudden retirement from all forms of motorsport at the age of 28.
“After 23 years of strapping the helmet on I feel like it’s time to finally call it a day,” Stanaway posted to Instagram.
“I never would have predicted my racing career to be so short and it’s not a decision that I’ve taken lightly but it is what it is.
“I got further than I could have ever imagined I would and I can’t thank everyone enough that has been a part of the journey. Time to start a new chapter.”
Stanaway was touted as a future World Champion in open-wheel racing, but fate and circumstances sadly had other ideas. A winner of the New Zealand Formula Ford and Toyota Racing Series championship titles as a rookie, he moved to Europe in 2010 and repeated his rookie achievements in the ADAC Formel Masters Championship and German Formula 3 Championship in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
Signing with Gravity Sport Management – which had connections to the Lotus F1 Team – Stanaway looked to be on a fast track to success. Vaulted into the GP3 Series’ final two rounds in 2011, he won from the reversed-grid pole at Spa-Francorchamps.
His next step was the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, but tragedy struck when he suffered spinal and neck fractures in a horrifying accident at Spa-Francorchamps. That kept him out of the cockpit for the rest of 2012. CLICK HERE to read our exclusive interview with Stanaway which took place during his recuperation.
With no full-time open-wheel opportunities open in 2013, Stanaway shifted to GT racing, starting what would become a five-year association with Aston Martin Racing that peaked with him claiming two LMGTE Pro class wins in the FIA World Endurance Championship and third in class at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2016.
He returned to open-wheel racing in 2014, re-entering the GP3 Series with Status Grand Prix and claiming two fine wins and a further three podium finishes. He graduated with the team to the GP2 Series and claimed two further wins in Monaco and Sochi – the latter was his and the team’s final GP2 hit-out before it was forced to close its doors.
An opportunity to return to Australasia proved tempting with the invitation to join Super Black Racing as an Pirtek Enduro Cup co-driver in 2016. His performances caught the attention of Prodrive Racing, which fielded him in selected Super 2 rounds as well as the Enduro Cup as his WEC commitments permitted in 2017 while it evaluated him for a full-time drive the following year.
He and Cameron Waters combined to win the Sandown 500, making it a fait accompli that he would make his full-time debut the following year. Forced to take up their option on his services or risk losing him to a rival team, Prodrive cast aside Jason Bright to make way for the young Kiwi while the team rebranded to Tickford Racing.
For whatever reason Stanaway simply couldn’t translate his co-driving performances into the same results as a full-timer. He picked up just one top-ten finish all season, with 25th in the Drivers’ Championship standings an embarrassment for the pilot and illustrious team. Both parties opted to terminate his multi-year agreement by mutual consent at the end of the season.
A lifeline came in the form of sponsor Boost Mobile, which moved its dollars to Garry Rogers Motorsport on the proviso that Stanaway came as part of the package – series veteran Garth Tander was duly sacked to make way. Sadly, the team was a shadow of its former self and Stanaway failed to crack the top-ten over the first five rounds.
Then at Winton his old neck injury reared its head, forcing him to miss several mid-season rounds. He returned ahead of the endurance season but a pair of top-ten finishes on home soil at Pukekohe proved a false dawn, and his woes were compounded when team boss Garry Rogers suspended him from the second Gold Coast 600 race for missing a scheduled autograph signing session.
With Boost Mobile trying (and failing) to flex its muscles by holding GRM and the series to an effective ransom, the writing for driver and team was on the wall. With GRM announcing the end of its Supercars operation at the end of the year, Stanaway’s chances of remaining in the series looked bleak.
On top of his poor results was an ever-building reputation of hotheadedness with his rivals and being difficult to work with within his team. He admitted his deteriorating relationship with the team, compounded by his suspension, was a factor in his eventual decision to call it quits.
“Anyone that knows me personally knows I’m heavily introverted so I stick to myself, I’m a shy person and it comes across the wrong way to a lot of people,” Stanaway explained to the Supercars broadcast.
“Anyone that knows me personally knows I’m heavily introverted so I stick to myself, I’m a shy person and it comes across the wrong way to a lot of people.
“It’s the same in any sport though, it’s just a common trend across the whole internet really, it’s a very volatile place and our championship is no different.
“I don’t think it’s had a massive effect but it [the suspension] definitely hasn’t helped the situation. It’s just not something I need in my life.”
Images via Garry Rogers Motorsport, GP2 Series Media, Tickford Racing