In the case of Mika Hakkinen, that has involved a handful of seasons (and a few wins) driving for Mercedes-Benz in the DTM series, but when he'd had his fill, that was it. He's essentially been retired since the end of 2007 season, but is about to don his racing helmet one more time for a race in China.
The race in question is the 1000 km of Zhuhai, the Chinese round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. That's where he'll be sharing a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 with Lance David Arnold and Cong Fu Cheng in the AMG Customer Sports Team China as the squad's guest driver.
It'll be the first time in a career dominated by formula racing that Hakkinen, now 43 years old, will be competing in a sports racer, and should be an interesting spectacle. Follow the jump for the full press release.
Affalterbach, Oct 22, 2011
- Formula One double champion Mika Häkkinen will compete in the 6-hour race at Zhuhai on 13 November 2011 in a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3
- Häkkinen's first race since 2007 DTM season finale at Hockenheim
- A guest drive for the Finn as a Mercedes-Benz brand ambassador
- Team-mate to CongFu Cheng and Lance David Arnold in the Customer AMG Sports Team China
For the first time in four years, former Formula One and DTM driver Mika Häkkinen will climb into the cockpit of a racing car for the season finale of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup on 13th November in Zhuhai (China). Häkkinen will be driving a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 for the six-hour race along with 2010 Mercedes-Benz DTM driver CongFu Cheng and Lance David Arnold of Germany. The Finn is making an appearance in his capacity as a Mercedes-Benz brand ambassador and this will be the first time the gullwing SLS has raced in China. The car has been entered by an independent team, Customer AMG Sports Team China.
Häkkinen's most recent race appearance took place on 14th October 2007 when he drove an AMG Mercedes C-Class in the DTM season finale at Hockenheim. Between 2005 and 2007, he competed in 31 DTM races for Mercedes-Benz, securing three wins, three pole positions and eight podium finishes.
In the period between 1991 and 2001, the Finn contested 161 Grands Prix, signing for McLaren-Mercedes in 1995. At the wheel of the Silver Arrow, Häkkinen claimed the Formula One world championship twice (1998 and 1999), won 20 Grand Prix races, secured 26 pole positions and posted 44 podium finishes (51 overall). Mika Häkkinen and David Coulthard (who drives the Deutsche Post AMG Mercedes C-Class in the 2011 DTM season) hold the record for the longest team-mate partnership in the history of Formula One; they drove together from 1996 to 2001.
The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 is the competition version of the legendary gullwing, designed for customer motorsport. The car contested its first full racing season in 2011, including the ADAC GT Masters, the VLN Endurance Championship at the Nürburgring and the FIA GT3 European Championship. In its debut season, the SLS AMG GT3 scored victories in all three of these series; in the FIA GT3 European Championship, customer outfit Heico Motorsport won the team title, the first trophy for the gullwing.
Mika Häkkinen: "It's a great honour for me to be able to contest the first SLS AMG GT3 race in China. Although I've visited China many times, I've never raced there, which is why I'm really looking forward to Zhuhai. It will be a tough race in a competitive field, but I'll do my best for Customer Sports Team AMG. Of course, being a guest driver in such a line-up should be a lot of fun, especially in the SLS AMG GT3. It's a great customer motorsport vehicle which is both fast and extremely good-looking."
Norbert Haug, Vice-President Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: "Mika Häkkinen is one of the most successful, best-known and best-liked racing drivers in the world. He won back-to-back Formula One world championships in 1998 and 1999 with our McLaren-Mercedes Formula One team and later had a successful career in the DTM. For over fifteen years, he has been a prominent, world-famous member of the Mercedes family. Mika enjoys enormous popularity, especially in China, and that's also why he was so willing to play an active role in the race debut of the Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 at Zhuhai. Lining up on the grid for us is more than just a great gesture by Mika – he still possesses the same competitive spirit as in the days of his great Formula One battles with Michael Schumacher in the late 90s and early 2000s."
Ola Källenius, Chairman and CEO of Mercedes-AMG GmbH: "We are very proud that a fan favourite like Mika Häkkinen will be a guest driver in the SLS AMG GT3 at Zhuhai. His participation is unique, and we want to use his appearance to inspire race fans in China both for the vehicle and for the AMG customer sports programme. The GT3 version of the gullwing was designed for customer sport and will be raced in China – as in all other markets – by private teams. Experience gained from over 40 years of motor racing is encapsulated in that vehicle. As the first complete in-house development and production car from the AMG factory, the SLS AMG embodies all our expertise in developing high-performance vehicles."
Klaus Meier, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz China Ltd. "Although AMG first came to China in 2007, the brand has already proved to be a great success. By 2010, China had already become AMG's third-largest market, and sales to August of this year are already 50% up on 2010. Chinese customers appreciate the incomparable blend of speed, handling, driving dynamics, exclusivity, design and exhaust note of the AMG. The commitment to customer motorsport with the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 as a style icon will further contribute to increasing Chinese enthusiasm for AMG."