Fernando Alonso, twice F1 World Champion, will race with the Toyota GAZOO Racing team in the 2018-2019 World Endurance Championship (WEC) which consists of 8 rounds. The 36-year old driver, who has been racing in F1 since 2001, will make his LMP1 race debut at Spa-Francorchamps in May. He will compete in all rounds of the 2018-19 season which do not conflict with his existing obligations with the McLaren-Renault F1 team.

He will be driving a 1,000hp TS050 HYBRID racing car together with Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima. A second TS050 will have Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose María Lopez, who have been racing together before.

“I am very excited to participate in the Le Mans 24 Hours for the first time. It is a race which I have followed closely for a long time and it has always been an ambition of mine to participate. Endurance racing is a different discipline compared to single-seaters and I enjoyed my first taste of it at Daytona,” Alonso said. “I am looking forward to working together with, and learning from, Sebastien and Kazuki, who are both very experienced endurance drivers. It will be a steep learning curve for me but I am ready for this challenge and I can’t wait to get started.”

Participating in the WEC has contributed in the development of Toyota’s hybrid powertrains, especially since the regulations give manufacturers the freedom to innovate.

For example, the fundamental technology behind a 35% fuel consumption improvement since 2012 for Toyota LMP1 cars is contributing to the continuous improvement of Toyota road cars.

As well as technology, racing in the WEC has also enhanced the knowledge and experience of the powertrain engineers who develop production models. Many of the engineers have been seconded to the WEC team to learn new processes and working methods in a high-pressure environment.

“Since 2012, we have taken up the challenge of the FIA World Endurance Championship, including the Le Mans 24 Hours, with race cars equipped with hybrid technologies. Of course, we have always approached this challenge with a desire to drive faster than any other car and to win. Yet our cars carried our desire for more than just that,” said Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation. “Not only did we want to heighten environmental performance in terms of fuel efficiency and such, we also had a very strong desire to create hybrid cars that made drivers feel that driving is fun, and that made them want to keep at it and want to let the cars keep on going.”

“More than 100 years have passed since the birth of the automobile. As we approach times of tremendous change represented by electrification, automation and other developments, I am strongly determined to make sure that cars will be fun for the next 100 years,” he added.

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[Chips Yap]

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