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Nicolas Lapierre set for Toyota LMP1 return in third Le Mans car

Nicolas Lapierre is set to return to Toyota's Le Mans 24 Hours LMP1 line-up two-and-a-half years after being sacked by the team

French media reports first emerged last week suggesting Lapierre had struck a deal to rejoin Toyota, which he raced for in the World Endurance Championship from 2012 to mid-'14.

He is set to take the place in the team's third LMP1 entry that had initially appeared earmarked for Ryo Hirakawa, and will join Toyota regular Stephane Sarrazin and Super Formula champion Yuji Kunimoto.

Lapierre was dropped by Toyota after the first four races of the 2014 campaign having made costly errors in successive races at Le Mans and Austin.

His team-mates Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi contested the remaining rounds as a duo, and ended up securing the WEC title for Toyota.

Lapierre - who has since won the LMP2 class at Le Mans twice in a row with KCMG and then Signatech - will therefore make his return to LMP1 competition in May's Spa WEC round.

Autosport understands Porsche factory driver Romain Dumas will step in for Lapierre at Signatech, where he is likely to team up with Gustavo Menezes and Matt Rao, at Spa and Le Mans.

Kunimoto entered the frame to join the Toyota Le Mans roster after impressing during testing at Aragon, where he is said to have lapped quicker than Sarrazin.

The entry list for the upcoming Fuji Super Formula test, which clashes with WEC testing at Monza, appears to confirm Toyota's driver decision - with Kunimoto absent from that list but Hirakawa down to run with TOM'S in Japan.

The LMP1 teams have insisted drivers with other commitments prioritise the Monza test.

Sarrazin is among those having to rush to the following day's Formula E race in Mexico City and his Toyota team-mate Kazuki Nakajima and Porsche's Andre Lotterer are both skipping the Super Formula test.

Hirakawa is expected to still race at Le Mans for his regular European Le Mans Series team G-Drive Racing, joining Memo Rojas and Leo Roussel in its DragonSpeed-run ORECA 07.

Toyota will present its 2017-spec TS050 Hybrid, along with all nine of its Le Mans drivers, on Friday ahead of Saturday's Monza test.

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