Toyota Motorsport GmbH reveals top driver line-up for World Endurance Championship

Written by Cheryl Tay on . Posted in Cheryl Tay News | Latest Industry News

TOP-LINE DRIVER LINE-UP FOR TOYOTA MOTORSPORT GmbH IN WORLD ENDURANCE CHAMPIONSHIP

 

COLOGNE, Germany – 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-WurzAlex 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-LapierreNicolas 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-NakajimaKazuki 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)

 

Career History

 

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)

 

Career History

 

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)

 

Career History

 

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)

Cheryl Tay

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Singapore’s only female full-time motoring and motorsports photojournalist. Independent automotive consultant and prominent local motorsports personality Cheryl Tay is uniquely passionate about all things cars and motorsports. She also has a strong passion to share her interest and knowledge, hence having a dream to become the ‘Oprah Winfrey of cars and motorsports’ and create a multimedia platform for her sharing. - A female in a male-dominated world, Cheryl Tay is Singapore’s only female full-time motoring journalist and motorsports blogger and she regularly writes for prominent titles in Singapore, Asia and internationally. (See full list of titles that Cheryl Tay writes for here.)

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