James Newbold meets the man tasked with filling Kevin Estre’s considerable boots at McLaren GT.
It’s been a season of change at McLaren GT. Garage 59 have taken over the running of the pair of 650S machines from Dave Ryan, who has returned to Formula One with Manor, Bas Leinders has joined the brand from Marc VDS in the newly created role of Sporting Manager, while Kevin Estre has left the marque for Porsche. Of last season’s line-up, only Shane van Gisbergen and Rob Bell will contest the Blancpain Endurance Cup, with Alvaro Parente joining Bell in the Sprint Cup, Adrian Quaife-Hobbs moving across to the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup and Bruno Senna’s busy racing in Formula E and the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Stepping in to fill the breach alongside Bell and van Gisbergen will be Frenchman Come Ledogar, who bears more than a few similarities to Estre. Like his compatriot, Ledogar is a product of one-make Porsche racing, taking the French Carrera Cup title in 2014 and almost adding the Italian championship last year, missing out by one point despite not contesting all the rounds. In his first full season in the Porsche Supercup, the 24-year-old peaked with a second place at the Hungaroring, eventually placing eighth overall, sufficiently impressing Managing Director Andrew Kirkaldy to earn himself a factory berth.
“I’m really happy about being a McLaren factory driver. I’m quite young, but this is the best moment to be a factory driver – everything is in the right moment, so I’m very thankful to them for trusting in me,” said Ledogar. “I actually know Kevin quite well, he’s a really nice guy, a good example for French guys and a good reference for us. I take a lot of things from him and I try to follow his ways.”
Ledogar himself admits that his path has been smoothed by manager Philippe Dumas, who ran a McLaren in the Blancpain Endurance Cup under the Hexis banner until the team’s closure at the end of the 2013 season. Dumas arranged a test for his young charge and the rest was history.
“Philippe Dumas introduced me to McLaren GT, we did a test which went well and that’s it,” he said. “All the factories are looking at Porsche Supercup, as you see Philipp Eng has become a factory driver with BMW also, so I don’t know if people will be surprised because we have already shown our performance.”
With the support of Bell, who has been involved with the McLaren GT project since it first began in 2011, and Blancpain sophomore van Gisbergen, Ledogar hopes his learning curve won’t be too steep and is working hard to be ready for the first round at Monza.
“Although I have done Porsches for a few years, I don’t have a lot of experience of endurance racing, but I will give my best,” he added. “It’s a new challenge, there are many things that I have to learn, but Rob is a nice guy and I will try to take everything from him. He has already taught me a lot, now I will work hard to be ready for the season. It’s going to be a good year.”