Toyota set to retain current drivers for 2018/19 WEC superseason

Toyota is set to keep all six of its current LMP1 drivers under contract for the 2018/19 World Endurance Championship 'superseason'

Toyota set to retain current drivers for 2018/19 WEC superseason

The Japanese manufacturer all but confirmed it will remain in the series at the end of season gala in Bahrain last month and an official statement regarding its renewed commitment is expected next week.

It is understood Toyota had been waiting to see the specifics of the FIA and Automobile Club de l'Ouest's plans to balance hybrid and non-hybrid LMP1 cars before making a final decision.

Long-serving drivers Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Anthony Davidson are all expected to be retained, as are Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and 2017 rookie Jose Maria Lopez.

"We keep the same six [drivers] for next season," team director Rob Leupen told Autosport. "We have long-term contracts, and we stand by those."

But Fernando Alonso's potential assault on the Le Mans 24 Hours and other WEC rounds with Toyota leaves question marks about how the team's final line-up could look next season.

An expansion to a third car to accommodate the Spaniard is thought unlikely, meaning one of the six regulars could be forced to make way on an ad-hoc basis.

World Touring Car Championship convert Lopez has been the subject of rumours about his future following mistakes at Silverstone and Shanghai, with the latter costing Toyota a one-two finish and the chance to take the manufacturers' championship battle to the final race in Bahrain.

Asked about Lopez's situation, Leupen added: "It's his first year, and if you go back to Mike or Kamui's first season, everybody has made mistakes.

"So from that point of view, it's a learning curve and next year he has to deliver."

Lopez said he believes his 2017 season was generally positive despite his high-profile errors, and that his speed showed that leaving the WTCC was the right choice.

"I didn't come here to stay only one year," Lopez told Autosport.

"I had my time in WTCC, I probably could have stayed there forever and achieve more championships.

"[But] this was a fresh start for me, completely starting from zero, driving cars that are much quicker.

"It's been a learning season for me. With this decision I didn't stay in the comfort area.

"[I made] a few mistakes, but I think taking off those two weekends [Silverstone and Shanghai] it's been a good year for me.

"My pace in the races has been very good and that is the most positive.

"There are things that I can learn and I still will learn, especially traffic management.

"But I'm happy with my season and I'm happy to have taken the decision to be in this category."

shares
comments
Rebellion confirms LMP1 return with Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani

Previous article

Rebellion confirms LMP1 return with Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani

Next article

DC had letter of intent to keep Rebellion WEC LMP1 signing Laurent

DC had letter of intent to keep Rebellion WEC LMP1 signing Laurent
Load comments
Inside the Le Mans finish too barmy for Hollywood Plus

Inside the Le Mans finish too barmy for Hollywood

Team WRT has been at the forefront of GT racing for years and made a successful move to prototypes for 2021, capped by an LMP2 win on its Le Mans debut. It could've been even better had the race been one lap shorter, when its cars ran 1-2, but the stranger-than-fiction reality has spurred the team to reach greater heights

Le Mans
Oct 16, 2021
The standout memories of Le Mans 2021 Plus

The standout memories of Le Mans 2021

OPINION: With four of the five Hypercar entries unproven in a 24-hour race, it would not have been unexpected for at least one of them to suffer serious reliability trouble. That they all managed to make it through the race relatively unscathed, says GARY WATKINS, was something of a surprise.

Le Mans
Aug 24, 2021
Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked Plus

Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked

Toyota scored its fourth Le Mans 24 Hours victory and a 1-2, with the #7 car of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez beating the #8. But although it looked straightforward from the outside, Toyota faced serious problem that had to be solved with some quick-thinking and ingenuity

Le Mans
Aug 24, 2021
How overlooked Mazda produced one of Le Mans' greatest shocks Plus

How overlooked Mazda produced one of Le Mans' greatest shocks

The screaming rotary-engined Mazda 787 is regarded as one of the most popular Le Mans 24 Hours-winning cars, but until its surprise success on this day 30 years ago it was never regarded as a likely victor. But that reckoned without a new technical partner, some canny political manoeuvring and a rival's bizarre self-inflicted weakness

WEC
Aug 22, 2021
Can Toyota's #7 crew break its Le Mans curse? Plus

Can Toyota's #7 crew break its Le Mans curse?

One Toyota, normally with the number 7 on the side, always seems to attract the bad luck in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez are hoping for a change in fortune this time around, but face significantly more unknowns than in recent years

Le Mans
Aug 19, 2021
Why Glickenhaus should be taken seriously on its Le Mans bow Plus

Why Glickenhaus should be taken seriously on its Le Mans bow

Many were quick to dismiss Glickenhaus when the boutique American sportscar firm's entry into the top class of the Le Mans 24 Hours was announced. It's all-new LMH racer, powered by an engine built by a rally specialist, goes in as the underdog against Toyota but the mathematical odds suggest that it has more than just a faint hope of success

Le Mans
Aug 18, 2021
The Asian underdog taking on the mighty GT factories at Le Mans Plus

The Asian underdog taking on the mighty GT factories at Le Mans

The rising HubAuto team steps up to GTE Pro at Le Mans this year for an ambitious bid to take on the three works giants – and has every reason to be optimistic of achieving its goal in becoming the first privateer on the podium since 2016

Le Mans
Aug 18, 2021
How 1971's benchmark Le Mans team lost with the best car Plus

How 1971's benchmark Le Mans team lost with the best car

The JW Automotive Engineering team won twice at the Le Mans 24 Hours with ageing Fords and were considered heavy favourites to add more victories to its tally after partnering with Porsche. But despite being armed with the all-conquering 917, this formidable combination was never as successful in real life as on the big screen

Le Mans
Aug 14, 2021