Richie Stanaway is set to test an S5000 single seater at Winton today in a bid to prove his fitness to make a Supercars return at next week’s OTR SuperSprint.
The New Zealander has been absent from the paddock since May after being forced to withdraw midway through the Winton SuperSprint due to the flare up of an old neck injury, resulting in a prolapsed disc that has since required numerous scans and visits to hospital.
While on the sidelines in recovery mode, the 27-year-old has witnessed Chris Pither and Michael Caruso take his seat at Darwin, Townsville and Ipswich respectively, but is hoping to return to the cockpit at The Bend Motorsport Park.
Today’s run out in brand new GRM-built V8 powered S5000 single-seater will be his first run in a race car since May.
His Boost Mobile Racing Supercars team-mate James Golding will also enjoy an outing as GRM performs a shakedown of one of its newly built cars.
It will be something of a return to Stanaway’s racing roots having spent the majority of his career in open wheel machines with spells in Formula Ford, Formula 3, GP3 and GP2 (now Formula 2). His last single seater outing resulted in a GP2 victory at Sochi in 2015.
“Looking forward to getting back in a car and making sure my neck has recovered as expected,” said Stanaway.
“I’ve obviously been out of a Supercars seat for a while.
“My rehabilitation has gone well and I feel that I’m ready to get back into it, but both the team and I want to make sure that I am fully fit before committing to The Bend and beyond. The S5000 test will definitely let all of us know if I’m ready or not.
“I haven’t driven an open wheeler since my last GP2 race in 2015 so I’m looking forward to getting back in one and seeing how it feels and hopefully I can contribute somewhat to the development of the new car.”
GRM team director Barry Rogers admits that the test is not only important for Stanaway but for the team also as the operation continues to ready the S5000 cars for the series debut at Sandown (September 20-22).
“This is an important test for our S5000 program as we work towards the Sandown debut,” said Rogers.
“With all of the lessons that we’ve learned from the prototype chassis, we’ll get a chance to give another car a run.
“We are confident that there will be very few, if any teething problems and our drivers will be able to get down to a lap time quickly.
“Both Richie and Jimmy (Golding) are very experienced drivers in all manner of cars. I think they are going to really enjoy the experience.
“Obviously, the test also gives us a chance to have a look at Richie’s health and fitness and see if he is ready to jump back into his Boost Mobile Supercar for The Bend and beyond.”
Meanwhile, the day will provide a rare return to open wheel action for rising Supercars star Golding having raced in the Australian Formula Ford Series in 2013 and 2014.
“The early stages of my career was in all Formula Ford, so to get back in an open wheeler is going to be really cool,” said Golding.
“This will be the fastest car that I’ve ever driven, so I’m sure it is going to be an eye opener.
“I’ve been watching the GRM guys work hard on building these cars at our workshop, and I’ve always wanted to have a steer of one so to get the chance is going to be great.
“It will be fun and good to see what they can do.”