MADRID – Toyota Gazoo Racing announced on Wednesday that Spain’s two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso will end his journey in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), leaving his position in the team for New Zealand’s driver Brendon Hartley.
Toyota said that Alonso is looking forward to a new motorsport challenge within the Toyota team and is set to leave after his participation in the 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours.
“For many years we have respected him (Hartley) 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,” Team President, Hisatake Murata, said in a statement.
Murata also thanked Alonso for his “contribution to this fantastic season during which he has written his name in Toyota’s motorsport history.”
“His (Alonso’s) 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,” Murata added.
The Spanish driver hopes to win the two-day 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours, which is set to kick off on June 15, along with his teammates Sebastien Buemi of Switzerland and Kazuki Nakajima of Japan.
“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,” Alonso emphasized.
“Now is a good time to take on new challenges and there are many interesting opportunities to explore within TOYOTA GAZOO Racing,” he added.
Meanwhile, Hartley, the two-time WEC champion and 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours winner with Porsche, will join Briton Mike Conway, Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi, Argentine driver Jose Maria Lopez, as well as Buemi and Nakajima to form the Toyota team in the WEC next season.
“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,” Hartley said.
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,” he underscored.