Saturday, Apr 20 07:00am
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Brendon Hartley to replace Fernando Alonso at Toyota?

Former FIA World Endurance Championship winner Brendon Hartley has been tipped to make a full-time return to the series next season.


With suggestions that two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso won’t return to Toyota GAZOO Racing next year, Hartley has been reported as a favourite to replace the Spaniard.


French outlet Auto Hebdo has reported Hartley will join the Japanese squad as a reserve driver in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans in anticipation of a full-time drive in the 2019-’20 season.


Hartley has been rumoured to join this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans line-up in an LMP2 car previously.


Since leaving the Formula 1 World Championship with Scuderia Toro Rosso after a little over a season with the Red Bull Junior Team, Hartley has been hot property.


He remains contracted to Porsche as a factory driver but has had stints in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and World Endurance Championship this year.


Hartley is also conducting pre-season testing for Porsche with their new ABB FIA Formula E Championship contender, however, he hasn’t been confirmed to join the team.


Hartley has previously said that he believes he could combine campaigns in Formula E and the World Endurance Championship, something that Sébastien Buemi currently manages.


“I still love Le Mans and have a big love for endurance racing,” he said.


“I think it’s totally possible to combine two programs which other drivers are already doing.


“I see Formula E as something different from endurance racing as it is bringing racing to the heart of cities.”


If Hartley isn’t picked up, fellow countryman Nick Cassidy could also be in contention for the seat. Currently he is driving with the pseudo factory Toyota team TOM’S Racing in both the Autobacs SUPER GT Series and SUPER FORMULA.


Currently the no.8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid is driven by ex-Formula 1 drivers Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, the latter being Cassidy’s teammate in SUPER FORMULA.


Hartley’s next race is not yet known. It was set to be at the 6 Hours of Spa when he was to replace SUPER GT bound Jenson Button at SMP Racing in the No. 11 BR Engineering BR1 AER, however, he's been ruled out of contesting this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans with SMP Racing after Stoffel Vandoorne announced as a replacement for the British driver. 


Vandoorne will use the race at Spa-Francorchamps as preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Motorsport.com has reported that Hartley turned down the offer to compete with SMP Racing at Le Mans largely due to the Toyota reserve role on offer.