Edmonton racer up to the challenge

Stefan Rzadzinski will do just about anything to be able to compete in a top-flight racing series — really, anything.

So imagine what he would do if he was offered the opportunity to race in the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans — the most famous endurance sports-car race in the world.

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Well the 22-year-old from Edmonton is about to find out just how badly he wants to be part of one of the greatest tests of man and machine ever held.

Rzadzinski will fly to Europe next month to take part in a 12-part online documentary series that will pit 24 drivers against one another with the winner getting a chance to race at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

It is all part of a program by Team SARD-Morand to draw attention to its LMP2 entry at Le Mans this season.

Rzadzinski heard about the contest several months ago that invited young drivers from across the world to submit a proposal on why they should be chosen to participate in the unique contest.

According to SARD-Morand team boss Benoit Morand the 24 drivers chosen will compete in challenges that “will test the drivers physically and mentally. Those who fail will be eliminated, until just one remains to take the seat and drive with Team SARD-Morand at Le Mans.”

It was something that Rzadzinski said he couldn’t resist to at least getting his name in the mix.

When he found out he was among the 24 chosen drivers, he was overwhelmed.

“I am super excited and really lucky because I was told there were hundreds of submissions.”

It all started when Rzadzinski came across the team’s proposal late last year while browsing online.

“It was something that I came across in December,” Rzadzinski said in an interview from his Edmonton home.

“I was kind just contacting a number of race teams to see if I could ever get an opportunity to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“One of the teams I contacted was SARD-Morand and they said I should apply for the competition they were running.

“So I submitted a one-minute video, but I had not heard back for a while so I wondered if it was going to lead to anything ... you never really know about these things.

“Then one day I get a notification that I had been chosen for the competition.”

And what a competition this is going to turn out to be.

“This is no tacky reality game show,” series executive producer Sebastian Pot said.

“The 24 candidates from all over the world are already highly trained professional racing drivers, so we are taking an intelligent approach to this entire process, and how we cover it.”

Rzadzinski is all in to show that he has what it takes to be the last driver standing at the end of the competition.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans — it’s the pinnacle of sports-car racing,” he said.

“I am going to bring all I have to the show.

“Hopefully I can bring the great Canadian spirit to it and it will pay off.”

Rzadzinski said the show’s producers are keeping very quiet on what kind of challenges the 24 drivers — from 17 different countries — will be asked to perform.

He does know that it will involve him travelling to several different continents and racing on some of the most famous circuits in the world including Monaco, the Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi, the Fuji International Speedway in Japan and the final show the Circuit de La Sarthe, the venue for the 24 Hours of Le Mans..

“I feel very prepared for it,” Rzadzinski said.

In his young career he has already shown he is a quick study.

Last season, he took to the road course at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park to race in the Pinty’s Presents The Clarington 200 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series season opener.

Prior to getting to the Ontario track, Rzadzinski had never driven a full-sized stock car.

But with only a short one-hour test the day before the race, Rzadzinski drove the Alex Tagliani owned No. 18 EpiPen/Dicom Express Dodge to sixth place before he was punted off the course on the final lap to finish 13th.

He turned a lot of heads that day and is will likely do it again on the world stage next month.

SURGERY FOR BUSCH

Kyle Busch, who broke his right leg and left foot in that Xfinity Series race at Daytona last week, had successful surgery this week to repair his foot, Joe Gibbs Racing announced.

The procedure was performed by Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C., JGR said in a statement.

F-1 TEST TIMES

Nico Rosberg set the fastest lap of the final winter Formula 1 test at Barcelona on Friday for Mercedes, with McLaren finally getting some good laps in after lead driver Fernando Alonso was sidelined with a concussion.

Rosberg registered a lap of 1:22.792 in his Mercedes with McLaren Honda driver Jenson Button fifth quickest at 1:25.590.

NOT SO FAST

NASCAR Sprint Cup teams were allowed a full free practice at Atlanta Motor Speedway this week to test the new aero package that is in effect starting Sunday for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.

Jeff Gordon posted the fastest time in the No. 24 Chevrolet at 188.424 mph.

That is significantly slower than last season when Kevin Harvick posted a qualifying lap of 190.398mph.



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