Phil Hanson - looking ahead, and back, on a highly-successful sports-prototype career

You’re now committed to the 2019-20 FIA World Endurance Championship season.
“I’m really excited to be competing in my first full WEC season – it will be very cool competing on a world ‘stage’. I’ve previously raced in the odd WEC race, Spa, Le Mans & Nürburgring in 2017 with Tockwith Motorsports plus Le Mans with United Autosports again last year – all four races in a Ligier JS P217 sports-prototype. I completed my first full season in the European Le Mans Series last year. I’m expecting the WEC to be very similar but obviously differs with the fly-away races that can either be four, like I’m used to in ELMS, six, eight or 24 hours in duration.”

It’s been a fast-track journey for you to reach WEC in a relatively short time.
“I came into motorsport at a late age compared to many drivers. I karted between 2014-2015 and did nine Dunlop Endurance Championship races before switching to sports-prototypes when I was 17-years-old. I had five races in LMP3 while the Buri-ram race this weekend marks only my 19th LMP2 race. Two seasons of ELMS and a couple of IMSA races has been a great way to prepare for WEC.”

Why have you chosen to race with United Autosports in WEC?
“Stability. That was a big factor. It’s important for me to stay in the same environment moving up to WEC. United has also shown that it’s a very good team with its ELMS and Le Mans performances. United is also the UK distributor for Ligier Automotive which has got to be a good thing for a driver like myself. It also helps that Filipe is going to be one of my co-drivers. I raced with him in ELMS last season and will do so again in 2019. I am always totally confident he’ll do an amazing job while he’s someone I’m constantly learning from.”

2018 marked only your first full ELMS season. Do you see WEC being even more competitive in terms of teams/drivers?
“ELMS LMP2 last year was incredibly competitive, it is extremely strong and is likely to be like that again this year. So I believe the intensity of ELMS will prepare me well for WEC. I may find WEC to be even tougher when we join the grid at Silverstone in August but it won’t come as a shock to the system because of my ELMS experience. I believe Le Mans will always be the toughest race for the obvious reasons – the duration, the large varied grid, the circuit itself, day-night-day racing combined with an enhanced driver line-up coming from all different disciplines around the world, just because it’s Le Mans. That said, United finished fourth in LMP2 on its LM24 début in 2017 and scored a podium finish last year.”

Only Bahrain and São Paulo on the provisional 2019-20 WEC calendar would be new to you.
‘That wouldn’t be a big disadvantage. I raced at Sebring, Watkins Glen and Shanghai for the first time last year and I was pretty quickly up to speed at each of those. I don’t see that being an issue compared to drivers who have previous circuit knowledge.”

What are your targets in 2019?
“Whether it’s ELMS, the Asian Le Mans Series or the WEC, the target is always to win the [LMP2] championship title. ELMS 2018 started off badly for us, simply due to sheer bad luck, but Filipe and I achieved two wins and a podium in the last four races. I currently lead the Asian LMS with Paul Di Resta going into the penultimate race on Saturday. Starting out in the WEC will be exactly the same mindset – competing for championship honours – after all that’s the reason for putting the programme together. I’m hoping that 2019 will be my most rewarding and successful year in motorsport.”

2019 looks like being another busy year with up to 13 races.
“I’m looking forward to having another hectic year. It’s likely to be 13 races with more test days too. That will allow me to get more familiar with the Ligier and gain greater experience. This is crucial especially in endurance racing. Being ‘comfortable’ and as one with the car is vital.”