Hartley in good shape for third Le Mans victory

Le Mans (940 x 450)

Kiwi racer Brendon Hartley is in good shape ahead of this weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hour race as the former winner gets set to tackle the world’s most famous endurance race for the first time in the Toyota GR010 HYBRID.

Hartley topped the first day of the pre-event testing last week and was competitive throughout, finishing the final day a solid third in testing. Hartley and his crew also qualified third for the Hyperpole shoot out, with the second Toyota fastest overall.

This will be the first time the new breed of hybrid cars have raced at Le Mans and Hartley will be hoping to be the man to take the victor’s flag when the race begins this Saturday (Sunday morning 2am NZ time).  TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will be challenging for a fourth consecutive Le Mans 24 Hours victory.

“It’s great to see a former Toyota Racing Series alum and fellow kiwi on the global stage at this legendary event,” says Andrew Davis, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand General Manager.

“Many famous kiwi motorsport legends have raced at Le Mans, and Brendon is no exception.”

Two time Le Mans winner Hartley will drive alongside teammates Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima. The #8 GR010 HYBRID trio lead the drivers' standings following wins in the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and 8 Hours of Portimao.

“It’s great to get back in our Hypercar and fantastic to be back at the Circuit de la Sarthe,” said Brendon.

“Obviously this is a different car to what we have raced before here so we are learning a lot. The GR010 HYBRID really came alive here, especially in the fast parts. We have learned a lot and we are going in a positive direction. So I am looking forward to the days ahead.”

Hartley faces Hypercar competition not only from the second TOYOTA GAZOO entry, but also from Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus, which enters two cars, as well as Alpine, which participates with a re-engineered LMP1 car.

Hartley is one of three Kiwis on the grid and leads a contingent of no fewer than 13 graduates of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series who will take part in the big race this weekend. Luis Felipe Derani (BRA), Tatiana Calderon (COL), Alex Lynn (GBR), Rui Andrade (ANG), Franco Colapinto (ARG), Ferdinand Habsburg (AUT), Charles Milesi (FRA), Ryan Cullen (IRL),  Dennis Olsen (NOR), Thomas Neubauer (FRA) Callum Ilott (GBR) and kiwi Earl Bamber will all race. Former Toyota 86 racer Jaxon Evans is the third Kiwi in the Le Mans field this year.

Two days of intense preparation lead into five hours of practice and a qualifying session in France on Wednesday. Thursday sees a further five hours of practice, either side of the 30-minute Hyperpole session at 9pm CEST, when TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will challenge for a fifth consecutive pole position.

The 89th Le Mans 24 Hours will begin at 4pm CEST on Saturday (Sunday 2am NZ time)  in front of a reduced-capacity crowd of 50,000, when 62 cars and 186 drivers follow in the footsteps of legends, adding their own stories to a race which first took place in 1923.

With around 25,000 gear changes, 4,000km at full throttle and over 2million wheel rotations in a typical race, Le Mans is a true test of endurance.