Brendon Hartley exploring all options for 2018 after Porsche confirm LMP1 departure

CLAY WILSON
Last updated 13:19 01/08/2017
PORSCHE MOTORSPORT

Leading Kiwi driver Brendon Hartley is staying upbeat after Porsche confirmed they would not be part of the LMP1 category from the end of this season.

SUPPLIED/PORSCHE
Hartley, middle, countryman Earl Bamber, right, and German team-mate Timo Bernhard celebrate their stunning victory at Le Mans in June.
SUPPLIED/PORSCHE
The Porsche 919 Hybrid will not be part of next year's World Endurance Championship.

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A disappointed but optimistic Brendon Hartley is exploring all his options for next year after learning he will not be an LMP1 driver from the end of the 2017 World Endurance Championship season.

Alongside fellow Kiwi Earl Bamber, Hartley was one of six drivers affected when Porsche last week confirmed speculation they would soon cease to be part of the series' marquee category.

The German manufacturer did say their LMP1 team and all drivers would be kept "fully intact" but it remains to be seen where each driver ends up for 2018.

While he stressed it was still very early days, 2015 driver's champion and 2017 Le Mans 24 Hour winner Hartley indicated he was casting the net wide as he looked beyond this year.

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"I love Le Mans and I love endurance racing and it's a shame this project stops but in terms of the future I'm not stressing," the 27-year-old from Palmerston North told Stuff from his Monaco-base.

"I have options at Porsche, there are new projects coming here and they'll always be involved in motorsport, and I'm exploring all my other options around the world.

"The good thing with LMP1 is everyone knows we've been at the pinnacle of technology, developing cars and also the quality of drivers in the field is very good, it's been a great showcase for me.

"I don't know what I'll be racing next year, but I'll definitely have options."

In making the decision, Porsche noted they would be placing an increased focussed on their GT programmes in Europe and the US and entering the all-electric Formula E championship from 2019.

Hartley spoke positively about his potential involvement in both, noting how much he enjoyed his first foray into GT racing earlier this year and the part he could possibly play in the development of the company's electric race cars.

The only series he effectively ruled out his fulltime involvement in was the Supercars championship, although he did point out his desire to take part in the Bathurst 1000 at some point.

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"There is endurance racing in America, Formula E, IndyCar, Formula One, you never know," Hartley said.

"There is many options potentially available and I just have to figure out what is best. It's very early days, my intentions are to stay with Porsche and I'd like to think I have a good future there but in same breath I'm looking at anything and everything."

Hartley would "ideally" have his immediate future locked in before the end of the 2017 WEC season in November, especially given he is set to marry his partner Sarah in New Zealand in January.

But it is something he believes will steadily become more clear in the next couple of months, and not something he plans on spending hours, days and weeks pouring over.

Having been involved in the Porsche LMP1 project since the beginning, there was only one way a determined Hartley was planning on wrapping up what had been a special four years.

"We are at full attack to win this world championship and the focus very much on that," he said. "We will be giving it 100 per cent to give the 919 hybrid the ultimate send off.

"I'm really proud when I look over these four last years, I've been a big part of the development and Porsche also gave me a lot of room to grow as driver.

"It was a big step up for me back in 2014, hoping into such a big project and having that pressure on my shoulders and I've come such a long way as a driver.

"It was a huge opportunity for me and my life would be very different if I hadn't have got this chance."

With that experience in mind, Hartley is looking at last week's news in the same way.

It's not so much the end of one phase of his career, but the exciting start of another.

- Stuff

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