Toyota Motorsport in World Endurance Championship with top driver line-up
07.11.2011: Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) is delighted to confirm that Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima
Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) is delighted to confirm that Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima will share its new hybrid LMP1 car in selected World Endurance Championship races, including the Le Mans 24 Hours.
TMG will work intensely with all three drivers to learn more about the specific demands of endurance racing, as well as continuously developing the car. In the near future, this will include sessions on TMG’s driving simulator, which already features the Le Mans track and an LMP1 vehicle model.
Each driver has significant experience at the top level of international motorsport and they have been selected to help the team develop during what is expected to be a learning season in 2012.
The length of the respective contracts remains undisclosed.
One car will be entered in selected rounds, although the final identity of the team and its race schedule remain under discussion.
All three drivers are expected to drive the hybrid LMP1 car for the first time at the roll-out, which will take place early in the new year at an as-yet-unconfirmed European venue.
As a two-time Le Mans winner and multiple Formula 1 podium finisher, Alex Wurz is famed for his technical ability, speed and consistency.
His excellence in single-seater racing inevitably led to the top and he proved his talents in endurance racing as early as 1996, when he won the Le Mans 24 Hours at the first attempt and became the youngest-ever winner, a record which still stands.
After more than a decade in Formula 1, both as a combative racer and trusted tester, Le Mans beckoned again. Another outright win in 2009 combined with victory in the Sebring 12 Hours at his first attempt while triumphs at the Spa 1,000km and Petit Le Mans further enhanced his reputation.
Alex Wurz: “As soon as I heard about the possibility to join the team I was instantly excited and keen to be involved. I love endurance racing and I have been a fan of Le Mans since my childhood so I have great memories of Toyotas competing there, particularly the GT-One which was a really sexy, cool-looking car.
As an ambitious Le Mans racer, this heritage combined with the immense technical capabilities at TMG makes a very attractive combination. So I am extremely happy to be involved, along with Nicolas and Kazuki. One of the most important things in endurance racing is the connection between the drivers. If the drivers are working together it is a very productive situation for the team and ultimately improves lap times and results.
Nicolas has shown his speed while I really rate Kazuki as a person and a driver so I think we will be a strong team. I can’t wait to get started and I am fascinated by the new challenge of competing with a hybrid car. It is the future of racing so I am very excited that Toyota comes in with this technology. I know Toyota has a lot of expertise in this area and I hope this plays to our advantage.”
As a well-qualified single-seater driver, with GP2 races wins complimenting the 2006 A1 Grand Prix championship, Nicolas Lapierre moved into endurance racing in 2007.
He has quickly established himself as a leading light with wins in 1,000km races at Portimao and Silverstone before this year’s victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring.
Nicolas Lapierre: “To be selected by a company like Toyota for such a new and interesting project is a proud moment for me. We are at the beginning of a big challenge and I am very excited. TMG has some very impressive capabilities and, together with the hybrid system, we have the potential to develop a really strong car.
I am interested to experience the hybrid system for the first time; this adds a different aspect to our challenge and we have to consider some different strategic factors. It’s great to be involved at the beginning with this technology and I hope it will give us a performance advantage. I’m also pleased to be part of such a strong driver line-up.
I raced against Kazuki in GP2; he is definitely a fast driver and also a good team player, which is very important in endurance racing. Alex is a two-time Le Mans winner so he is a great benchmark for us, but he is also able to build a strong team spirit. I believe the choice of drivers is very good and I am looking forward to working together as a team.”
Kazuki Nakajima is a successful graduate of the Toyota Young Drivers’ Programme, having enjoyed race-winning successes in Formula 3 and GP2 on his way to Formula 1, initially as test driver before progressing to a race seat.
He stood out as a mature and determined driver despite an extremely tough environment, so it is no surprise he has immediately returned to winning ways in Formula Nippon.
Kazuki Nakajima: “I am thrilled to have been chosen to become a member of Toyota’s World Endurance Championship team. To return to Le Mans, and to take part in this new championship, means a lot to Toyota so I am very honoured to be a part of it. Le Mans will be a new experience for me but it is one I am very much looking forward to.
The challenge of Le Mans is famous throughout motorsport so I can’t wait to race there for the first time. Obviously it is a new experience but I am familiar with endurance racing thanks to my time in Japanese Super GT and this will help me to adjust.
It’s great to join such a strong driver line-up, especially because I am already familiar with both of my new team-mates, having worked with Alex in Formula 1 and raced against Nicolas in GP2. I am looking forward to working closely with Alex and Nicolas; I want to learn about Le Mans from them and I hope I will be able to do a good job.”
Alex Wurz Profile
Born 15 February 1974, Waidhofen an der Thaya, Austria Lives Monaco Status Married to Julia, 3 children (Felix, Charlie and Oscar) Height 1.87m Weight 79kg Hobbies Kite surfing, mountain biking, climbing, triathlon Favourite track Le Mans, Monaco Pets None Favourite food Italian and Japanese Best achievement Being the youngest Le Mans winner (1996)
Le Mans Debut 1996 Le Mans Starts 5 Le Mans Best Result 1st (1996 & 2009)
1986 BMX World Championship: 1st BMX European Championship: 2nd 1989 Austrian Kart Championship: 2nd 1991 European Formula Ford Cup: 2nd Austrian Formula Ford Championship: 2nd 1992 European Formula Ford Cup: 1st Austrian Formula Ford Championship: 1st German Formula Ford Championship: 1st 1993 Austrian Formula 3 Championship: 1st 1994 German Formula 3 Championship: 2nd 1995 German Formula 3 Championship: 6th 1996 Le Mans 24 Hours (Team Joest): 1st International Touring Car Championship (Opel): 16th 1997 Formula 1 (Benetton): 14th FIA GT Championship (AMG Mercedes): 10th 1998 Formula 1 (Benetton): 8th 1999 Formula 1 (Benetton): 13th 2000 Formula 1 (Benetton): 15th 2001-05 Formula 1 (McLaren): Third driver 2005 Formula 1 (McLaren): 17th (one race) 2006 Formula 1 (Williams): Third driver 2007 Formula 1 (Williams): 11th 2008 Formula 1 (Honda): Reserve driver 2009 Le Mans 24 Hours (Peugeot): 1st Formula 1 (Brawn GP): Test driver 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours (Peugeot): DNF Sebring 12 Hours (Peugeot): 1st 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours (Peugeot): 4th
Petit Le Mans (Peugeot): 1st
Spa 1,000km (Peugeot): 1st
Nicolas Lapierre Profile
Born 2 April 1984, Thonon-Les-Bains (France) Lives Bursinel (Switzerland) Status Single Height 170 cm Weight 69 kg Hobbies Football Favourite track Spa, Macao Pets 2 dogs Favourite food Italian Best achievement Being the youngest Macao F3 winner (2003)
Le Mans Debut 2007 Le Mans Starts 4 Le Mans Best Result 5th (2009 & 2011)
1993 Began his career in karts 1997 European Kart Championship, CIK Cadet Class: 6th 2000 French Formula Renault 2001 French Formula Renault: 8th (4th in Junior class) 2002 Formula Renault Eurocup (Graff Racing): 3rd 2003 Formula 3 EuroSeries (Signature Plus): 4th Macau Grand Prix: 1st 2004 Formula 3 EuroSeries (Signature Plus): 3rd 2005 GP2 Series (Arden International): 12th 2006 GP2 Series (Arden International): 9th A1 Grand Prix (Team France): 1st 2007 GP2 Series (DAMS): 12th (2 wins) Le Mans 24 Hours(Team ORECA): 9th 2008 Le Mans Series (Team ORECA): 12th 2009 Le Mans Series (Team ORECA): 6th Le Mans 24 Hours (Team ORECA): 5th Asian Le Mans Series (Team ORECA): 3rd 2010 Le Mans Series (Team ORECA): 2nd Le Mans 24 Hours (Team ORECA): DNF 2011 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (Team ORECA) Le Mans 24 Hours (Team ORECA): 5th Sebring 12 Hours (Team ORECA): 1st
Kazuki Nakajima Profile
Born 11 January 1985, Okazaki, Japan Lives Tokyo, Japan Status Single Height 1.75m Weight 62kg Hobbies Football, sightseeing Favourite track Fuji, Silverstone Pets None Favourite food Spanish and Japanese Best achievement Being the first Japanese F1 driver to score points at Monaco (2008)
Le Mans Debut n/a Le Mans Starts 0 Le Mans Best Result n/a
1998 Began his career in karts 1999 Suzuka Kart Championship, ICA class: 1st 2003 Esso Formula Toyota: 1st 2004 Japanese Formula 3 Championship (TOM’S): 5th Macau Grand Prix (TOM’S): 13th 2005 Japanese Formula 3 Championship (TOM’S): 2nd Macau Grand Prix (TOM’S): 5th Super GT (apr): 8th 2006 Formula 3 EuroSeries (Manor): 7th Macau Grand Prix (Manor): DNF 2007 GP2 Series (DAMS): 6th Formula 1 (Williams): 22nd (one race) 2008 Formula 1 (Williams): 15th 2009 Formula 1 (Williams): 20th 2011 Formula Nippon (TOM’S) Super GT (TOM’S)
About Toyota Motorsport GmbH:
Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) is an engineering services supplier based in Cologne, Germany since 1979 with extensive experience of World Rally, sportscar racing and Formula 1. With two state-of-the-art wind tunnels, unique R&D testing facilities and extensive production departments as well as impressive design and simulation capabilities,
TMG is at the forefront of engineering services supply to the motorsport and automotive industries. In 2011, TMG was part of a Le Mans Series Manufacturers’ championship with Rebellion Racing and Lola, while it also set a new lap record for electric vehicles at the Nürburgring Nordschleife using a road-legal car with TMG electric powertrain. For more information, please visit www.toyota-motorsport.com.
About Toyota Motorsport GmbH:
Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) was established in 1993 after the Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) took sole ownership of Toyota Team Europe. The company has been based in Cologne, Germany since 1979 and built its reputation in the World Rally Championship, winning four drivers’ and three manufacturers’ title during a long participation which ended in 1999.
TMG was also the home of Toyota’s works Le Mans 24 Hours (1998-1999) and Formula 1 (2002-2009) teams, both of whom achieved pole and podium positions, and a tuning and sports conversion subsidiary (established in 1994). Since November 2009, TMG has transformed into a specialist engineering supplier, providing design, development and manufacturing for high-performance sectors. For more information, please visit www.toyota-motorsport.com.
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