Compliments for Alonso: 'He was a special driver at Toyota'


rob leupen toyota on fernando alonso in wec and formula 1
9 May at 18:00
  • Ludo van Denderen

It would not have been strange at the respectable age of 42: among the seasoned drivers on the grid of the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) could've been Fernando Alonso. However, the Spaniard is no longer with Toyota - the team with which he won the championship with in the '18-'19 season and won the 24 Hours of Le Mans - and competes in Formula 1.

Sitting in the brand-new hospitality unit of Toyota Gazoo Racing - Hypercar World Endurance Championship reigning champions - Rob Leupen says he finds "it a difficult question" if he is surprised that Alonso is currently doing so well with Aston Martin? He answered this in an exclusive interview with GPblog.

'Alonso moved Toyota forward'

The Dutch Team Director of the Japanese team then says: "Fernando was a special driver here with us as well. He did tremendously well with us. It was great to work with him. Not always easy, but he brought the team forward. Although there was only one situation that was a bit more difficult. But other than that, he was really good."

Leupen recalls Alonso's inspirations at the time at Toyota to shine again in Formula 1. "[Am I surprised] that he can still compete at that level? Yes. In Formula 1, with that competition out there. Could he drive here [in WEC] with me? Very clearly. Yes," Leupen said.

It is very easy to imagine Toyota ignoring the phone once Alonso bids farewell to Formula 1 at some point. "Then there must be a place available," Leupen immediately said. "Or an extra car to be available."

Toyota with a third car in WEC?

The latter has been the subject of intense speculation lately. The team that finished first and second in the championship in 2023 is said to be considering letting a third car compete. Leupen says: "There is always talk about that. And we are immediately asked if Ferrari does the same. We are always working on it, but it has to fit at the right time. And it has to fit into Toyota Motorsport's vision. That is then discussed with the big boss and then we look at it."