APRIL 3, 2008

Hartley tests for Toro Rosso

New Zealand teenager Brendon Hartley has been secretly testing for Toro Rosso in Italy in recent days. The 18-year-old from Palmerston North drove the Italian teams latest F1 car at the Vairano circuit in Italy. The intensive shakedown session was the debut for Toro Rosso's 2008 car, which is based on Adrian Newey's 2008-spec Red Bull. The STR3 in Hartley's hands was painted dark blue, not yet decked out in the Faenza-based Grand Prix team's familiar blue and Red Bull-style livery. With regular Toro Rosso Grand Prix drivers Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais overseas for the Malaysian and Bahrain Grand Prix, the task of shaking down the new 2008 car was entrusted to Hartley, a Red Bull young driver.

Hartley previously demonstrated a Renault-engined Red Bull Formula 1 car in Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian capital after an initial familiarisation session at the Silverstone circuit in Britain.

"The Formula 1 testing with Toro Rosso was a confidential development session for a car that is yet to be publically launched," he said. "What I can share is that it was a privilege to be invited to drive the new car for the first time. The sensations and the performance were incredible."

Hartley is racing for the Carlin Motorsport team in this year's British F3 Championship.

The last New Zealand driver to test a Formula 1 car was Scott Dixon who completed several days in Europe for the Williams-BMW team in 2005. It is 24 years since Mike Thackwell made a very brief F1 debut in Canada, the last New Zealander to race an F1 car.