Austin (AFP) - Le Mans champion Brendon Hartley of New Zealand will make his Formula One debut at the US Grand Prix in Austin next weekend for Toro Rosso as a replacement for the absent Pierre Gasly.
Frenchman Gasly joined Toro Rosso just two weeks ago from the Super Formula Championship to take the place of the struggling Daniil Kvyat, and as he trails the lead by a mere half-point, will contest the last race of the season in Japan on the same day as the Austin GP.
The last New Zealander to race in Formula One was Mike Thackwell 33 years ago.
The 27-year-old Hartley last tested with Toro Rosso in 2009 and was over the moon to get the belated chance to race his first F1 GP.
"What an amazing feeling, I never did give up on my ambition and childhood dream to reach F1," said Hartley, who won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.
"I want to say a huge thanks to Red Bull and to Porsche," he told the Toro Rosso site.
"I'm trying not to put too many expectations on my F1 debut, but I feel ready for it."
Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost said he was delighted for Hartley, describing him as part of the Red Bull family.
"Brendon is coming as the reigning 24h Le Mans winner and he's also leading the current FIA LMP1 World Endurance Championship, which he won in 2015 as well," Tost said.
"I'm convinced he'll do a fantastic job for us."
Russian Kvyat has since returned to Toro Rosso and will partner Hartley in Texas, after Spaniard Carlos Sainz, who has scored 48 of the Red Bull second-string outfit's 52 points so far this season, left for Renault last week.