2015 and 2017 FIA World Endurance Driver’s Champion and 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Brendon Hartley returns to the WEC with Toyota, taking the slot in the no8 TS050 hybrid vacated by Fernando Alonso alongside reigning champions Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi.
The New Zealander made one appearance in the Super Season, racing with SMP Racing at Sebring in March, finishing third at the end of the 8 Hour event in Florida.
We caught up with Brendon Hartley at The Prologue, the two day official pre season test held at Barcelona, to talk about the coming season racing with his former rivals in the final season of LMP1.
“It feels great to be back in the WEC with Toyota. It feels strange having a Prologue in the middle of the year but I am very happy to be back in the WEC paddock. It’s a little strange being with Toyota, who were are fiercest competitor for so long when I was at Porsche and now I am joining them. I do get the pleasure of experiencing both the Porsche 919 Hybrid and the Toyota TS050 Hybrid. I already feel very much part of the team and being alongside Sebastien [Buemi] and Kazuki [Nakajima] I have a good feeling; I can’t wait for the season to get underway.
“Before the Prologue I hadn’t had much time in the car. I had three laps at the Le Mans test day and a full two day test at Paul Ricard. Everyone’s been asking me what the difference is and how does it compare. There are a surprising amount of differences considering we competed against each other so fiercely. The hybrid system is quite different, so there is a lot for me to get used to but I have some great teammates to help me get up to speed as quickly as possible. I also have my experience from Formula One and my time with Porsche and I will put all of that to good use.
“I am obviously looking forward to Le Mans in the coming season. It was quite tough watching the race this year but it was very valuable me being there with Toyota, listening to the radio and seeing how the Toyota guys were working with each other. However it was tough watching and not racing. It was always my dream to be in Formula One, and it was an incredible experience, but I never had the same feeling as I did standing on the grid at Le Mans. It’s such a special race, it’s obviously the stand out on the WEC calendar, and there is something about that race that I fell in love with. I am very happy to be going back.
“Silverstone is first on the calendar, I really like Silverstone and we’ve had good support from teh fans over the years. It’s a good place to start the 2019/20 season.”
The 4 Hours of Silverstone is round 1 of the 2019/20 FIA World Endurance Championship and will be held at the Home of British Motor Racing on Sunday 1 September.