Brendon Hartley doubts he would have got a second chance to reach Formula 1 with Toro Rosso had it not been for his dramatic victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Porsche in June.

Hartley will make his final appearance with Porsche's LMP1 team in this weekend's FIA World Endurance Championship finale, with the programme set to close at the end of the year.

Hartley was handed a surprise F1 debut with Toro Rosso at the United States Grand Prix - seven years after Red Bull dropped him from its junior programme - with his performances doing enough to secure him a full-season seat for 2018.

Asked by to reflect on some of his best memories of racing with Porsche in LMP1 over the past four seasons, Hartley said the Le Mans victory had been the pinnacle.

"Standing on the top step of the Le Mans podium, I think that has to be the ultimate. That’s the biggest achievement of my career, above making my Formula 1 debut," Hartley said.

"Standing on the top step of the Le Mans podium is an incredible experience. To share it with your teammates, all the fans and the team underneath you. There were quite a few special things about that, even the fact that Mark [Webber] joined us up on the podium. It was something I will never forget.

"I think without this moment, I’m sure also Formula 1 might not have happened.

"Le Mans means so much to so many people. I think in sports cars it doesn’t really get bigger than that, standing on top of that podium."

Hartley's hopes of a maiden Le Mans win looked slim when the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid was forced to spend almost an hour in the pits early on to have its front axle replaced, only for a stunning lack of reliability for the LMP1 runners to allow the team to fight back through the field for victory.

While Hartley is working hard to stay composed ahead of his final Porsche LMP1 appearance, the two-time WEC drivers' champion admitted it would be an emotional race on Saturday at the Bahrain International Circuit.

"We had a huge amount of success, but the fact it’s coming to an end, it’s going to be emotional," Hartley said.

"At the moment I’m trying not to think about it and just trying to enjoy all the time we have left in this project. But I think it’s fair to say it’s been amazing for me and for everyone involved.

"There’s no positive thing about it other than things have worked out very well for me, but we’re obviously upset to be leaving this amazing chapter."


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