Fernando Alonso looks set to make Dakar Rally debut

Former F1 champ to quit Toyota's WEC team after this year's Le Mans 24-Hr to explore 'new adventures within the Toyota Gazoo Racing family'

01 May 2019 - 15:15 By Reuters
Fernando Alonso tested the Dakar Toyota Hilux in SA earlier this year.
Fernando Alonso tested the Dakar Toyota Hilux in SA earlier this year.
Image: Supplied

Fernando Alonso will be replaced by New Zealander Brendon Hartley in the Toyota World Endurance Championship (WEC) team after the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, the Japanese manufacturer announced on Wednesday.

Toyota said twice Formula One world champion Alonso "will explore new motorsport adventures within the Toyota Gazoo Racing family".

No details were given but the Spaniard recently tested a Toyota Dakar Rally car in South Africa. The next edition of the Dakar Rally will be held in Saudi Arabia in January 2020.

Alonso won Le Mans with Toyota last year and will be trying to win the Indianapolis 500 with McLaren later this month to become only the second driver to complete the so-called "Triple Crown of Motorsport." Winning the Monaco F1 Grand Prix is the third tier of this unofficial motorsport achievement, which he has done twice.

"Now is a good time to take on new challenges and there are many interesting opportunities to explore within Toyota Gazoo Racing," said the 37-year-old, who left Formula One last year.

"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."

Hartley won Le Mans with Porsche in 2017 and is a two-time World Endurance champion. He raced in Formula One with Toro Rosso last year.

"I believe I am returning to WEC an even stronger driver following my experience in Formula One," he said.

The 2019-20 WEC season starts at Silverstone on Sept 1 and runs to Le Mans on June 14, 2020.