Hartley favourite for Toro Rosso US GP drive

Hartley favourite for Toro Rosso US GP drive

Hartley favourite for Toro Rosso US GP drive

Not since Mike Thackwell in 1984 has a Kiwi driven on motorsport's biggest stage but that could change in the next fortnight with Le Mans 24 Hour victor Brendon Hartley looming as a serious contender for the vacant Toro Rosso seat at next week's US Grand Prix.

Autosport magazine is reporting that 27-year-old Hartley is the favourite to replace Gasly for the race at the Circuit of Americas track and is in the frame to get a full-time drive at the team next year. He is part of a trio including fellow Kiwi Earl Bamber and German Timo Bernhard that leads the World Endurance Championship but will be looking for another drive next year after Porsche's decision to withdraw at the season's end.

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It is understood Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost wants to use Austin as an opportunity to evaluate a new driver as he weighs up his 2018 driver line-up.

The 2017 Le Mans victor has emerged as a front-runner to gain the US Grand Prix audition after years as a reserve driver and time in the junior programme with the Red Bull team.

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Brendon Hartley could be poised to become the first New Zealand Formula 1 driver for more than three decades.

However, acquiring the Kiwi will require some ironing out by the Italian Formula 1 team - the 27-year-old is now contracted to Porsche in the World Endurance Championship - a competition he could win this weekend with a solid performance in Fuji.

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It is also believed he is close to a deal to race for Chip Ganassi in IndyCar next year, meaning there are contractual issues to be ironed out before his Austin appearance can be confirmed.

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