By: Ashley McCubbin
TORONTO, Ontario — Behind the wheel, Alexander Wurz was able to experience success in the heights of motorsports, competing in Formula 1 for 10 seasons. However, since retiring, it seems that the experience has only grown from there.
A current advisor for the Toyota Gazoo Racing team, he helped with their victory in the 2019 24 Hours of LeMan with Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi, and Kazuki Nakajima behind the wheel. Though it wasn’t just the fact that they won, but rather they did it with a hybrid racecar.
Toyota’s TS050 Hybrid Race Car #8 –a two-time winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans- features a custom-engineered Toyota hybrid system built around a twin turbo, direct injection 2.4L V6 and motor-generator units on both axles. The hybrid system generates up to 1,000 horsepower and delivers it to the pavement via a transversal seven-speed sequential shift gearbox and four-wheel-drive.
While at the Canadian International Auto Show, Wurz spoke about Toyota’s success and more with POPULAR OPEN WHEEL.
POPULAR OPEN WHEEL: Being with the team’s management side, what does it mean to you have to be have set the bar this high thus far with back-to-back LeMans victories?
ALEXANDER WURZ: I mean, where should I start? At the very beginning when Toyota went into the hybrid technology, I was driving. Now I’m retired in the management role, but all my knowledge of how all the systems – driving, engineering – interact, that’s still in me and that is what I’m passing on with the team and will go into the next car, the hypercar GRX. But I know the car inside out, I know it very well, and it’s such a fantastic car to drive with the hybrid power being four-wheel drive. It’s super cool and very fast.
POW: So with having set the bar, as a team, where are the goals to go from here?
ALEXANDER: So when we came into the World Endurance Championship, we set the bar with lap times, all the time. We’ve been very unlucky to ’16 to retire with one and a half minutes before the race ends, being in the lead and dominant. That’s just made us stronger as we’ve just been more organized in the process and liability. Now the last two years, we’ve won in record lap times and distance over the 24 hours, very reliable.
So the goal after winning two times can only be to win it again and again, and again. The bar is now to bring Toyota into the ranks of LeMans legends, which would mean multiple times. This is really the goal and what is really good for us is our boss, he loves the racing and racing environment that we keep developing the technology. The technology that you find in here and in the road car, the way we are harvesting, it’s very impressive the connection between the race department and the road car.
POW: The whole saying that what wins on the track on Sunday, sells on Monday or close to.
ALEXANDER: Maybe not the next Monday, but a Monday a year or two later, very soon.
POW: So you’ve been involved in racing for a long time. How did you get involved initially?
ALEXANDER: My dad was a racecar driver, so I kind of grew up at the track. My dad was in RallyCross and pushed me to go rallying due to his connections, but I’m a stubborn man; I wanted to go racing on circuits. So then I started in karting, but having said that, my real sport beginning was in BMX Racing at the age of 12. I was world champion and traveled around the world, but at 14, I dropped the bike in the garage and went kart racing.
We never really had much money so the goal was to find the drive somewhere. I was fortunate enough to end up in LeMans at the age of 22, and won the race. Then on Monday, the day after, I got the phone call from the Formula 1 team that they wanted me to race there. That made my career.
POW: I was just going to ask. What was that experience like for you racing in Formula 1?
ALEXANDER: It was cool. F1 is the pinnacle of motorsports in terms of global audience. Unfortunately, F1, outside of the top-two teams, it’s difficult to win races, almost impossible. I haven’t been in the winning teams at the time that they were winning so you go into the weekend and always hope for something special to happen so you can be on the podium. After awhile, I found it to be a bit sticky and my real love of racing is endurance, so I went back to LeMans and was lucky enough to win again, and now am with Toyota.
POW: So with working behind the scenes, do you still miss the itch to get behind the wheel?
ALEXANDER: No, not at all. I stopped my racing career before my contract stopped because I wanted to stop on a high. My brain is moving on to business and management and I’m very happy Toyota said that I had to stay with them, because it’s a very good relationship. From me, from the driver’s seat, it’s a very good perspective sometimes, very different to managers. But I understand the management and ensure the team is working well, with a good trusting partnership.
POW: So based on all your experience, what would your piece of advice to the next driver getting started?
ALEXANDER: Push harder than the one next to you. Motorsports is so different in how we develop as humans, because everybody is always pushing the bar higher and it’s incredible to see that. So if you’re not willed to work hard as a young driver, you won’t succeed. So you have to be talented – that’s no brainer, and a hard worker as the hard worker will still be the one to succeed.
And don’t trust social media as a young driver. Don’t think F1 drivers or WEC drivers or any drivers just have a good time. No no, that’s on social media. All those guys who are successful worked very disciplined and hard.
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