Hartley to make virtual Le Mans debut with Toyota GAZOO Racing

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will enter a new challenge next week when the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) team takes on an all-star grid in the very first Virtual Le Mans 24 Hours event.

The 2019-2020 WEC season, due to be completed in June, has been delayed until later this year, with races in August, September and November scheduled, due to recent events. So TOYOTA GAZOO Racing accepted an invitation to participate in the 13-14 June virtual race, held on the same date as the originally-scheduled Le Mans 24 Hours.

Car #7 will feature regular drivers, and World Championship leaders, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, alongside e-motorsport racer Maxime Brient, 23, from Le Mans.

Sébastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley represent the regular #8 drivers. They are joined by TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WEC Challenge driver Kenta Yamashita, replacing regular WEC racer Kazuki Nakajima, while Yuri Kasdorp, 23, from Montfort in the Netherlands, completes the line-up.

“It’s going to be a strange experience to participate in a 24-hour race with Séb and Yuri in Europe, Kenta in Japan and me in New Zealand,” commented Hartley. ” The good thing is that no-one needs to be awake in the middle of the night; with our crew, it’s always daytime somewhere. But I’m looking forward to it because it’s been a long time since our last WEC race.”

Mike, José, Sébastien, as well as Maxime and Yuri, will race from simulators in their European homes, while Brendon joins from New Zealand. Kamui and Kenta will be based in Tokyo, where Kazuki will be on hand to support Kenta.

All drivers will be supported by a dedicated engineering team at TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s base in Cologne, Germany, where set-ups and race strategy will be analysed and developed.

Event regulations require at least four drivers per car and the team has chosen to take two experienced and successful e-motorsport racers, to bring knowledge of the rFactor 2 software and its set-up characteristics.

With no LMP1 hybrid cars available for the Virtual Le Mans 24 Hours, like all other prototype entrants TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will participate with an Oreca 07 LMP2 car, specially modified to feature the TS050 HYBRID livery.

Although TOYOTA GAZOO Racing has won the last two Le Mans 24 Hours and both 2018-2019 WEC titles, the team approaches its e-motorsport debut with humility and has the simple target of entertaining fans who have waited since Austin in February for on-track WEC action.

It faces strong competition from famous names from worldwide motorsport who make up the 50-car grid, including entries from IMSA and Indycar legend Penske Racing, sim racing powerhouse Team Redline and TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Argentina, as well as regular WEC competitors Rebellion, Aston Martin and Porsche.

The first official sessions will take place on 9-11 June, with a 12-hour slot each day from 10am CEST for free practice, and another seven hours from 10am CEST on 12 June. The starting grid will be determined by a 20-minute qualifying session for each category, beginning at 6.10pm on 12 June, while the race begins at the traditional time of 3pm the following day.

The action will be streamed live across social media and streaming platforms, with further details expected soon from event organisers.

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