Although Brawn GP only existed for a year before becoming Mercedes, the team’s colours are still instantly recognisable over a decade on from that brief but brilliant moment in the sun.
So, when Jenson Button – who drove Brawn’s 2009 entry to championship victory – launched his own GT team last year, we could instantly tell where its Honda NSX GT3’s colour scheme had taken inspiration from. A year on, and Jenson Team Rocket RJN has a new car, and again, it’s packing some strong Brawn GP vibes.
The team – named after Jenson’s late father John’s karting operation Rocket Motorsports – will be fielding the new McLaren 720S GT3 in the GT World Challenge Europe. That’s the fancy new name for the series formerly known as Blancpain, in case you’re wondering.
The driver line-up for 2020 will be announced, “in the coming weeks”, the team said. It’s likely to be comprised of amateur drivers, with Rocket RJN expected to – as it did last year – compete in the Silver Cup category rather than the headline Pro championship.
Honda has deployed the Civic Type R to set a new front-wheel drive, production car lap-record at the iconic Mount Panorama circuit at Bathurst, Australia. Not the most exciting news you may think, but the driver was a certain Jenson Button. Nice to know he’s still doing his thing isn’t it?
The former Honda F1 driver set a time of 2m 35.2s on the 3.9-mile circuit – home to the bonkers Bathurst 1000 – which is actually considered a public road for 350 days of the year.
Incidentally, Jenson also holds the unofficial, all-time lap-record on the Mount Panorama circuit having done a 1m 48.8s in a Formula One car in 2011 whilst promoting the Australian Grand Prix, which is held a short (in Australian terms) eight-hour drive away in Melbourne.
Having long occupied a special place in motor racing, this year’s 86th edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours has an added sense of excitement with the participation of two former Formula One world champions in Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. They will take to the track on Saturday in the highest LMP1 category, with Alonso racing for Toyota and Button for the privateer SMP team.
For Alonso, it is a step towards his goal of matching Graham Hill in winning motor racing’s triple crown, for which he needs to add Le Mans and the Indy 500 to his Monaco wins. At the Circuit de la Sarthe, the Spaniard was relaxed, yet with an appreciable sense of focus and an enthusiasm that has increasingly been missing driving an uncompetitive McLaren in F1.
Being here was special, he insisted. “The fans feel the magic of the place,” he said. “Where you have the contact with the fans, like the drivers’ parade, you feel the amazing atmosphere Le Mans has. The parade lap will be very special and I will try to enjoy every moment and have the memories for a long time.”
Alonso has been diligent in his preparation and won the opening round of the WEC in Spa, but energised by the remarkable challenge of the event. “This race is 16 F1 grands prix in 24 hours.” he said. “When I drive [my stints] it is like doing two grands prix. In F1, you have two weeks to recover, here you have four hours. There is no race tougher than this one for the car, the mechanics, the engine and the drivers.”
When Jenson Button bowed out from Formula One at the end of last season there was a sense he was entirely comfortable with his decision. The British driver was almost demob-happy in his final races after a long career that had begun in 2000 for Williams, included a world championship for BrawnGP in 2009 and concluded with seven years at McLaren.
Although the latter had retained Button on sabbatical this year with an option for 2018, it was clear he did not really expect to climb behind the wheel again.
The 37-year-old will have to dust down the race suit once more after McLaren announced he will replace Fernando Alonso at the Monaco Grand Prix, while the Spaniard competes in the Indianapolis 500. Button’s skills will not have faded during the short-lived period of R&R but a tough task awaits.
Jenson Button hopes to prove in Bahrain that McLaren have indeed made a step forward with its new car this season, following what was a disappointing result for the team in Australia.
The teams hopes of scoring were dashed when Fernando Alonso crashed out of the opening race and Button finished just 13th, partly due to poor strategic choices during the mid-race red flag – a result of Alonso’s crash.
Button is however confident McLaren have made a decent step forward and hopes to prove that this weekend.
“I’m really keen to get back behind the wheel, as, although it didn’t show in our results from Australia, our package felt very good to drive and the team worked really hard to bring a step forward in driveability from testing to the first race.
“We made a couple of misjudgements on the strategy side in Melbourne, but it’s all part of the learning curve with the new tyre compound rules. Together with the engineers we’ve studied the data and hopefully we can make some good calls in Bahrain, pull together the various stages of the race and achieve a more representative result.
“Bahrain is definitely a tricky track for us as it’s high-speed, but we have a solid platform and improved deployment, so there are some positives to look forward to,” he added.
“I hope we can mix it with the midfield pack – it’s a very competitive area of the field – so we’ll be pushing hard to get the maximum from our package as soon as we can.”
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