Although he’s had a successful endurance racing career to date, Ben Hanley always thought it’d be cool to dip his feet into the NTT IndyCar Series one day.
He will get the chance to do so in a limited schedule with DragonSpeed Racing in 2019, and he spoke about that opportunity recently with POPULAR OPEN WHEEL.
POPULAR OPEN WHEEL: What are your thoughts entering the season?
BEN HANLEY: I’m looking forward to showing what I can do in IndyCar. At the same time, I’m a rookie as it is in the championship and the team is new so we know we have a big task ahead of us to get up to speed. We’re certainly not underestimating how difficult it’s going to be to get up to speed initially.
POW: Why do you feel IndyCar is the right step for the next phase of your racing career?
BEN: I haven’t really thought of it like that. Obviously coming from a single-seater background, it’s always been high on the wish list to get involved in it. Then once you take the endurance route, those opportunities normally don’t come back around.
But once there was talk about the team making the step and change of direction, then yeah, I was really interested immediately to try and get that seat.
POW: What are your goals and expectations for the season?
BEN: It’s really difficult to judge at the moment with everything being new to the team, new to myself, new to the engineers, so it’s going to be a big challenge. At the same time, we don’t want to just make a couple numbers.
We want to be able to get some results. We won’t be able to win the first race, but long term, we want to be doing the full season an hopefully be in the position to pick up some podiums and be in the final fun for the pole shootout. It’s just how quickly we can get up to speed and adapt to the car.
POW: Looking at your schedule for 2019, what track are you most looking forward to?
BEN: Well, obviously the first thing that comes to mind when they look at the schedule we’re doing is the Indy 500. It’s an iconic race, so that’s super exciting and I’m really looking forward to that.
But also the first race at St. Pete. It’s the ideal place to start a partial season with everyone on the current car. It’s nice to do the first race when everyone is doing their first race of the year, as well. I think that’ll give us a nice platform to build on.
POW: How did you initially get your start in racing?
BEN: My father has been interested in anything with an engine, really. So I think he got me a motorbike one Christmas when I was five. Then things just evolved and we got more into motorsports.
I think one day he swapped a sand buggy for a go-kart and an engine, and we went and found a local track, and next minute we’re racing up and down the country in the UK. It’s just grown from there.
POW: What’s been the most memorable racing moment for you to date?
BEN: It’s a difficult one as obviously I’ve been racing a long time with so many good points. But the most memorable is a tricky one. I suppose at the moment is confirming that we’re going to be doing IndyCar. For me personally, it’s a massive opportunity. The team has put their trust in me to do the job and I can’t wait to get started.
POW: I know you’re on the blink of starting this dream come true, but is there any other series or car on the bucket list?
BEN: Win the Indy 500? That’d be nice. I don’t think anyone would turn their nose at that.
POW: Who would you consider your racing hero?
BEN: When I was growing up, a lot of people similar to my age, there were always watching (Ayrton) Senna and (Alain) Prost in F1, and (Michael) Schumacher a bit later. At the time, the rivalry between Senna and Prost was special and all drivers have either picked Prost or Senna, and for me it’s Senna.
POW: What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone starting out?
BEN: Never give up. That was instilled in me from when I started racing, and I think me getting this opportunity now at this time in my career is a testament to that attitude. So never give up, keep pushing.
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