When he doesn't wear a racing suit, the New Zealander racing driver Brendon Hartley can be wrongly recognized as some teenage pop star or actor. His messy blond hair and casual wearing are hiding the fact that a cute boy from Palmerston is actually the 2015 FIA World Endurance Champion and 2017 Le Mans 24h winner.
Father and older brother inspired the young Brendon
Brendon's journey to the world's top began in 1995 when he was just six years old. The boy, who was born on November 10th, 1989, started racing before he went to school, inspired by his father Bryan and four-year-older brother Nelson, who were also racers.
The fact that Nelson was named after the famous F1 champion Nelson Piquet, was the proof of how Hartley family was infected with racing. In the first years of his career, Brendon was racing against his brother too. Brendon switched to single-seaters very early, at the age of 13, competing in the 2002 New Zealander Formula First. He finished eighth but also won the Formula Ford Festival, so he moved to the Formula Ford next year.
Two seasons of learning at New Zealand
Brendon finished second in the 2003-2004 Formula Ford Championship, in the same position which his brother Nelson took one year earlier. The next step was the Toyota Racing Series New Zealand, in which Brandon spent two seasons. He finished 4th in 2005 and 8th in 2006, taking four wins and 15 podiums in two seasons.
Brendon moved to Europe in 2006
Brendon then realized that he lives at the wrong end of the world, far from the major motorsport teams and competition, so he moved to Europe in 2006. He was based in the eastern Germany and was driving for Motorsport Arena team in the Formula Renault 2.0. He competed in the Eurocup and North European Cup but without notable results.
Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup champion in 2007
In 2007, Brendon joined the Epsilon Red Bull Team and won the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup, with four victories and eight podiums in 14 races. He also took the third place in the Italian Formula Renault championship. Brendon's good results and championship title earned him a place in the Red Bull talent pool.
In 2007, Hartley also made a debut in Formula 3, participating at the Masters of Formula 3 event at Zolder and later at Macau Grand Prix. At Macau, he was driving for British Carlin Motorsport and after that, he joined the team in the 2008 British Formula 3 Championship.
Impressive performance at Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix
Brendon scored five wins in 22 F3 races to finish third behind two teammates: Jaime Alguersuari and Oliver Turvey. The highlight of the season was the Formula 3 Grand Prix in Macau. Hartley started from 20th place and finished third in the race.
Impressions from the race were still fresh when the phone call came from the Red Bull Formula One team. Brendon was asked to join the team in the official test as a replacement for the injured Mark Webber. Brendon's dream came true and at the age of 19, as he had a chance to drive a Formula One car.
Dream job in the Red Bull F1 team
He signed a contract for the job of a test driver for both Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso. Brendon moved to the Milton Keynes in the UK, to live near the team. In 2009, Hartley competed for Carlin in the Formula 3 Euro Series and for Tech 1 Racing in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. He participated in 29 races in both series and scored just one victory, in the F3 race at Brands Hatch.
Red Bull story ended in the summer of 2010
His testing duties with Red Bull and Scuderia Toro Rosso continued in 2010. He also continued to drive for Tech 1 Racing in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, scoring just one podium in 13 races and finishing tenth in the final standings. He also joined Scuderia Coloni in four races of the GP2 Series.
During summer 2010, it was announced that Hartley lost the place in the Red Bull Junior Team. He was replaced by Jean-Eric Vergne.
Last season with single-seaters
In 2011, Hartley returned to the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, this time with the Gravity Charouz Racing team. He scored three podiums in 17 races and finished 7th in the points. Hartley again participated in a few races of the GP2 Series, driving for the Ocean Racing Technology team.
Hartley was a driver without a contract at the beginning of the 2012 season. He joined Ocean Racing again in a few races of the GP2 Series, but it was just a part-time job. Brendon then decided to open a new chapter in his career and he switched to sports car and prototype racing.
Le Mans debut with Murphy Prototypes in 2012
He joined Murphy Prototypes team and was driving Oreca 03 (Nissan) in various competitions, including his debut at 24 hours of Le Mans. He competed at Circuit de la Sarthe alongside Jody Firth and Warren Hughes but they retired after 196 laps.
In September 2012, Hartley participated in the Formula One young drivers' test at Magny-Cours, driving for Mercedes. At the same time, he joined the Mercedes F1 team as a driver specialized for simulator development work. He was doing that during 2013, but he further focused on racing with prototypes.
Fifth in the 2013 European Le Mans Series
One more season with the Murphy team followed in 2013. Brendon competed in all five races of the European Le Mans Series, sharing the car with Mark Patterson and Jonathan Hirschi. Hartley and Hirschi won in the last season's race at Paul Ricard and the New Zealander finished fifth in the championship.
At the 2013 24 hours of Le Mans, Hartley was sharing the #48 Oreca 03 (Nissan) with Karun Chandhok and Mark Patterson. They finished 12th overall and 6th in LMP2 class.
Full season in the Grand-Am Series with Starworks
Hartley's second job during 2013 was across the Atlantic, in the Grand American Rolex Series. He raced the full season for Starworks Motorsport, winning one of ten races and taking 10th place in the final standings.
At the biggest of all races, the 24 hours of Daytona, Brendon was a part of a 5-men crew in the #8 Riley-Ford, but the car retired after 441 laps of racing.
Brendon joined Porsche Motorsport in 2014
In 2014, Brandon was chosen to join the Porsche factory team in its return to the world endurance racing scene with brand-new Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 prototype. In the #20 car, Hartley partnered the former F1 driver Mark Webber and the experienced endurance specialist Timo Bernhard.
The crew of the #14 Porsche scored the first victory for the German manufacturer in the last race of the season at Interlagos. Hartley and his teammate in the #20 car scored three podiums during the season, finishing third at Silverstone, Fuji Speedway and Bahrain.
Retirements at Le Mans and Daytona
At the 2014 Le Mans 24-hours race, the #20 Porsche qualified fourth in the field. In the 22nd hour of racing, the #20 was in the lead but the crew was forced to retire due to the broken anti-roll bar. Hartley had no better luck at the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona, where he participated with his old team Starworks Motorsport, but mechanical issues forced the #78 Riley-BMW to stop after 238 laps.
Four consecutive wins for the world championship title
In 2015, Hartley returned with the same team to the World Endurance Championship grid, but the number on the car was changed to 17. Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley finished second at Le Mans, behind the #19 sister car driven by Nico Hulkenberg, Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy.
After that, the trio in the #17 Porsche scored four consecutive victories at Nürburgring, Circuit of the Americas, Fuji Speedway and Shanghai, to take the world endurance championship title. They finished fifth in the season-closing race at Bahrain International Circuit but it was enough to confirm the championship triumph.
Fifth place at the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona
Hartley recorded one more retirement at 24 hours of Daytona in January 2015, driving the #7 Starworks Motorsport Riley-BMW. A year later, in January 2016, Hartley finally crossed the finish line at the biggest American endurance race. After 24 hours of racing and 725 laps around Daytona International Circuit, the #01 Riley-Ford of Chip Ganassi Racing finished fifth overall. Brendon's co-drivers were Lance Stroll, Alexander Wurz and Andy Priaulx.
Video : Brendon Hartley crashes his Porsche at the 2016 WEC 6 Hours of Silverstone
The number 1 is just for the champions
In the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship, the winning crew Hartley/Webber/Bernhard again changed the number on the car. This time, they were proudly driving the #1 Porsche. Their result in the first three races of the 2016 FIA WEC season were disappointing, but after that they scored three consecutive wins (Nurburgring, Mexico, Austin). At Fuji Speedway, they finished third and then scored the fourth win of the season at Shanghai International Circuits.
Despite four wins, more than any other crew, they were not candidates for the 2016 FIA WEC title ahead of the last race at Bahrain, because they lost too many points in the first part of the season. At the end, Brendon was fourth in the points.
Victory at 2017 Le Mans 24 hours
For the 2017 FIA WEC season, Mark Webber retired from racing so Brendon's compatriot Earl Bamber became a new member of the crew. After finishing on a podium at Silverstone and Spa, a trio Hartley/Bamber/Bernhard scored a victory at Le Mans 24 hours race. In a dramatic race, after spending more than an hour in the pits because of broken front axle, the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid scored the 19th victory for Porsche in the world's greatest endurance race.
Besides competing in the FIA WEC, Brendon had guest appearances in the 24H Series and IMSA Championship. He was the overall winner of 24 hours of Dubai with Herberth Motorsport, driving a Porsche 911 GT3 R. At Daytona 24h and Sebring 12h, he was driving Nissan DPi for Tequila Patron ESM, missing podiums.