Toyota explains why it chose Hartley to replace Alonso

Toyota LMP1 team director Rob Leupen has explained why the Japanese manufacturer settled on Brendon Hartley as Fernando Alonso's replacement in its 2019/20 FIA World Endurance Championship line-up.

Toyota explains why it chose Hartley to replace Alonso

It was confirmed in the run-up to last weekend's Spa race that Alonso would be exiting the team after next month's Le Mans 24 Hours, with former Porsche WEC and Toro Rosso Formula 1 driver Hartley being brought in to take his place on the Toyota roster.

The New Zealander will make his first public appearance with his new employer at the Le Mans test day on June 2, having undertaken a seat fitting at Toyota's Cologne headquarters on Tuesday.

 

Leupen said the team was looking for a known quantity to join existing drivers Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Jose Maria Lopez, and that Hartley's LMP1 experience with Porsche in 2014-17 would be useful to Toyota.

"We knew the situation with Fernando," said Leupen. "Then you look at who can fill the gap.

"We know Brendon, we have raced against him, we have seen him developing in the Porsche Team very well, he’s a very open guy, he’s amicable, a team player. He would fit in.

"At Porsche he proved he was a very good and quick driver and the year in Formula 1 did not make him worse. He will put his experience with Porsche towards the team."

Leupen suggested Toyota could have potentially opted for a less experienced driver such as Stoffel Vandoorne, who made his first start in the WEC at Spa last weekend with SMP Racing.

But he stressed it was not "necessary" to consider a rookie driver for the 2019/20 season.

"At that time we started to think, he would have been [available]," said Leupen of Vandoorne. "We say Brendon also. Difficult to compare but we took the experienced one. Nothing against Stoffel."

#11 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1: , Stoffel Vandoorne

#11 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1: , Stoffel Vandoorne

Photo by: Paul Foster

Leupen had said last year during October's Fuji round that he was hopeful of being able to find a way to keep Alonso in Toyota's LMP1 line-up for the 2019/20 campaign.

While admitting that Toyota and the WEC in general will "miss" the Spaniard, Leupen indicated that Alonso's priorities had changed since they first began discussions about staying on.

"At that time, we were hoping, thinking, talking," he recalled. "It was all on his options, and we put our options. He has some goals which we cannot deliver for him, and he wants to do this, and he put his focus on that.

"Also, other circumstances – if you see how many days he’s on the road this year, it’s not that much less than last year, when he did a double programme in F1 and WEC.

"It’s something we have exchanged about since then, and I think a very good relationship here has come to a conclusion. For us it’s fine. I don’t see any losers in this relationship, only winners."

P1 Podium, #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, Fernando Alonso

P1 Podium, #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, Fernando Alonso

Photo by: JEP / LAT Images

shares
comments
ACO promises closer LMP1 contest at Le Mans in 2019

Previous article

ACO promises closer LMP1 contest at Le Mans in 2019

Next article

BMW announces drivers for 2019 Le Mans

BMW announces drivers for 2019 Le Mans
Load comments
How Alpine's stunted Portimao charge kept Toyota clear Prime

How Alpine's stunted Portimao charge kept Toyota clear

Despite going stride for stride for pace at Portimao, Alpine’s grandfathered LMP1 couldn’t convert pole position into a sustained victory fight against Toyota. And due to rules and car limitations that are set in stone, the French manufacturer will be searching for solutions in its own battle of endurance.

WEC
Jun 14, 2021
Charting 100 world championship sportscar starts for Toyota Prime

Charting 100 world championship sportscar starts for Toyota

This weekend's Portimao 8 Hours round of the FIA World Endurance Championship marks the 100th world champion prototype start for Toyota. Here are the major milestones on the road to three figures since the earliest low-key days of its entry into the Group C arena nearly 40 years ago.

WEC
Jun 12, 2021
The philosophical problems the WEC's new Hypercar class is already facing Prime

The philosophical problems the WEC's new Hypercar class is already facing

Most of the column inches after the World Endurance Championship's opener were centred around the relative pace of the Hypercar class and the LMP2s, but there's another question that needs addressing in order for the new division to have a successful future

WEC
May 7, 2021
How stumbling Toyota drew first blood in the WEC's new era Prime

How stumbling Toyota drew first blood in the WEC's new era

Amid concerns that the new Hypercar class would be upstaged on debut by the spec LMP2 machines at Spa, Toyota delivered the pole and victory that the vast majority of observers expected. But neither car had a clean run, which gave the grandfathered Alpine LMP1 an unexpected shot at glory.

WEC
May 4, 2021
What to expect from sportscar racing's bold new Hypercar era Prime

What to expect from sportscar racing's bold new Hypercar era

A slim field of three cars will be entered in the Hypercar class for the first round of the World Endurance Championship's post-LMP1 age. But there are plenty of reasons for optimism with the new wave of manufacturer entries and competing class philosophies just around the corner

WEC
Apr 29, 2021
How Aston Martin scaled new heights in the Prodrive era Prime

How Aston Martin scaled new heights in the Prodrive era

The 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship kicks off at Spa this weekend, but for the first time since its 2012 inception there will be no factory-run Aston Martins in the GTE Pro class. That's especially notable because as a works entity, the Prodrive era of Aston Martin Racing that began in 2005 has been a success from the very start.

WEC
Apr 27, 2021
How 'Brilliant' Bob Wollek lived up to his nickname Prime

How 'Brilliant' Bob Wollek lived up to his nickname

Sportscar racing lost one of it's greatest talents 20 years ago today when Bob Wollek was knocked from his bicycle prior to the Sebring 12 Hours. The enigmatic Frenchman never won the Le Mans 24 Hours, but many still remember today why 'Brilliant Bob' became a legend

WEC
Mar 16, 2021
How Ferrari's Hypercar project could bolster Leclerc's legacy Prime

How Ferrari's Hypercar project could bolster Leclerc's legacy

Ferrari's planned return to the top category at the Le Mans 24 Hours has further heightened anticipation for the 2023 race. Few concrete details are currently known, but already it has a high-profile superstar angling for involvement, which would make a refreshing change

WEC
Mar 5, 2021