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Le Mans legend to lead new McLaren driver programme

McLaren have a Le Mans winner at the wheel of their new driver development programme which could find potential F1 drivers.

Lando Norris Oscar Piastri Bahrain pre-season testing 2023
To news overview © XPB Images

Le Mans 24 Hours legend Emanuele Pirro is to led a new McLaren Racing driver development programme, which will also support drivers in other series in gaining experience of a Formula 1 team.

The five-time Le Mans winner competed in F1 between 1989 and 1991, taking a best finish of fifth for Benetton in Australia 1989 before finding success in sportscars.

As leader, Pirro will head the 'Driver Development Programme', supporting young drivers in their development from go-karting to the ranks of professional motorsport "with the aim of facilitating the progression of emerging talent into F1," according to a McLaren statement.

In addition to providing a pathway for drivers from other series, McLaren see the programme as creating "a potential talent pipeline" not only for the F1 squad, but also the IndyCar and Formula E squads.

The current programme has three members, IndyCar racers Pato O'Ward and official F1 reserve driver Alex Palou, with Ugo Ugochukwu rising through the junior ranks.

RacingNews365 understands that Pirro has informed the FIA that he will be standing down as a race steward, a role he has carried out since 2010.

"McLaren's long history"

Since 2007, McLaren have handed F1 debuts to Lewis Hamilton, Kevin Magnussen, Stoffel Vandoorne, Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, with McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown keen to follow in that tradition.

"McLaren has a long history of developing emerging talent into top-level racing drivers and I’m proud that will continue long into the future," said Brown.

"We have an experienced team here at McLaren, who will be ably led by Emanuele, that are capable of providing the support and resources required to develop raw young talent into highly competitive professional racing drivers.

"With McLaren’s wide racing portfolio across Formula 1, IndyCar and Formula E, we’re well placed to help develop young talent from the very start of their careers all the way through to full-time racing or test and development roles.

"We already have an exciting stable of talent, featuring Pato, Alex and Ugo, and I’m excited to continue supporting their development as we start to build the McLaren Driver Development programme."

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Pirro was also a McLaren test driver in the 1980s, and helped develop the famous MP4-4 machine of 1988, working alongside Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

"Together with my team, my role will assist in creating a state-of-the-art programme, selecting the best possible drivers and providing them with all the tools they need to make the best use of their talent," Pirro commented.

"Furthermore, [we will] embed them in the McLaren mission, vision and values and hopefully, have one of them progress to the F1 team.

"An important asset for us are the IndyCar and Formula E teams, which will give extra opportunities for a professional career to our McLaren Driver Development members.

"I love working with young drivers and helping them grow and improve. Every time I did it in the past has been an enriching experience and I look forward to doing it again.

"McLaren has an amazing history in F1. It means a lot to me, and I am hugely proud to be part of this programme. I am grateful to Zak Brown and [F1 boss] Andrea Stella for giving me this great opportunity."

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