If good things indeed come to those who wait, Ryan Hardwick is in for quite the experience at the 24 Hours of Le Mans next June.
Hardwick was recently confirmed to drive a Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR in the famous French endurance race in 2023, the result of earning an invitation as winner of the Bob Akin Award that goes to the top-finishing Bronze-rated driver in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD class this season. Hardwick and his co-drivers to be named will compete in the GTE Am class at Circuit de la Sarthe for the historic 100th anniversary of the first race.
“The timing couldn’t be better,” Hardwick said. “I’m obviously really excited and honored to be able to take place in what will be the 100th year anniversary of the race. I’m super excited to race in this particular year and also with it being the final year of the GTE category getting to race in one of those special cars. It’s been a goal of mine really since I joined GTD.”
It’s also a goal Hardwick could have attained two years earlier, after he won the Akin award in 2020. But looking at a 2021 Le Mans race facing strict pandemic restrictions limiting attendance and traditional activities, Hardwick listened to former Wright Motorsports teammate and longtime Porsche factory driver Patrick Long, who advised waiting for another opportunity when conditions were back to normal and he was able to have the full experience.
His stint with Wright Motorsports served Hardwick well both on track and in career advice he got from veteran Patrick Long. Gavin Baker / Motorsport Images
The second opportunity arrived when Hardwick and Jan Heylen finished second in this year’s GTD championship sharing the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R. Hardwick easily claimed Akin honors, finishing as the top Bronze driver in seven of 11 events.
Despite testing with at least one other manufacturer, Hardwick opted to stick with Porsche for the Le Mans run. The chance to work with Proton Competition was an added draw.
“Everything I do in racing, I try to do my best to align myself with a great team and great teammates,” he said. “I think everyone agrees racing is a team sport and usually the best team wins. Sometimes it’s not who has the best driver, sometimes it’s not who has the fastest car, it’s usually who has the best team — especially in long-distance 24-hour races.
“Our Wright Motorsports team has proven that fact in big endurance races like the Sebring 12 Hours and last year’s 24 Hours of Daytona, and I view Proton as one of, if not the best team in GTE. (Team principal) Chris Ried, I really look up to him a lot as a Bronze driver. He’s accomplished a lot of what I would like to be able to accomplish one day, and so I really look up a lot to Chris. Really excited to have the opportunity to run with him and run with his team.”