Hartley to replace Alonso as Spaniard leaves WEC


Fernando Alonso will pursue new motorsport challenges following the 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours, handing over his place in the Toyota Gazoo Racing team in the World Endurance Championship to Brendon Hartley.

Alonso, who according to the Japanese manufacturer, "will explore new motorsport adventures within the Toyota Gazoo Racing family", will conclude his time in WEC when he and his world championship-leading team-mates Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima defend the Le Mans crown they won together last June.

Hartley, who became a two-time WEC champion and 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours winner during four seasons with Porsche prior to a stint in F1, will begin the transition when he makes his first public appearance behind the wheel of a TS050 Hybrid at the Le Mans test day on 2 June.

Hartley will join Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez, Sebastien and Kazuki as a race driver for Toyota Gazoo in WEC next season, which begins on 1 September at Silverstone and concludes on 14 June 2020 at Le Mans.

"I would like to welcome Brendon to Toyota Gazoo Racing," said team president, Hisatake Murata. "For many years we have respected him as a tough competitor but now I am excited to have him as a Toyota colleague. He is a team player so I expect him to fit in very quickly and become a valuable part of our team.

"On the other hand, I am sad to say goodbye to Fernando and would like to thank him a lot for his contribution to this fantastic season during which he has written his name in Toyota's motorsport history.

"His passion, desire to win and willingness to chase his dreams is truly impressive. We will enjoy working together for the final two races when I know we all share the same target of winning Le Mans and both World Championships."

"I have enjoyed being part of Toyota Gazoo Racing in WEC but this chapter is ending," said the Spaniard. "Winning Le Mans is one of the highlights of my career as part of my Triple Crown challenge and I will always remember that victory which we achieved together as a team last year.

"Now is a good time to take on new challenges and there are many interesting opportunities to explore within Toyota Gazoo Racing.

"I wish Brendon all the best for next season and I would like to thank all the team members for the big effort they continue to make to achieve success in WEC. We still have two important races remaining as we are still in the fight to become WEC World Champions and I will be pushing hard to win both of them. I would love to put an end to this super season by celebrating a new world title with all the Toyota Gazoo Racing family. Finally, I'd like to take the opportunity to say thanks to all WEC and ACO members for such a warm welcome and experience."

"A big thanks to Toyota Gazoo Racing for giving me this opportunity," added Hartley. "I know how professional and motivated this team is following my years competing against them in WEC, so I am fired up and am very happy to be joining them. I believe I am returning to WEC an even stronger driver following my experience in Formula 1 and I look forward to getting on track and building a strong relationship with my new team. I can't wait to get behind the wheel of the TS050 HYBRID; the first tests can't come soon enough."

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Published: 01/05/2019
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