Toyota Officially Announces LMP1 Return for 2018-2019 Super Season
Is the Gazoo Racing a shoo-in for Le Mans victory next season?
After Porsche's World Endurance Championship exit, Toyota has long been expected to announce its return to LMP1 for a hopeful maiden victory at Le Mans in 2018. Now, Gazoo Racing has made the decision official after saying last month that it was "looking to stay, with the goal of winning." This locks in the Japanese team's spot as the only manufacturer-backed LMP1 entrant for next season.
Team president Hisatake Murata confirmed the news after Sunday's end-of-season award ceremony in Bahrain, reports Sportscar365.
The team is anticipated to return with three 2017-spec Toyota TS050 Hybrids for the inaugural WEC Super Season. Without any direct hybrid competition, the team halted development of a new car as it will be racing against privateer teams including Manor Ginetta, DragonSpeed, and SMP Racing in the series' top prototype category.
Drivers are yet to be decided for next season, but a full-time lineup including Sebastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson could be in the cards once again. Potential one-off guests like Fernando Alonso could make an appearance at Le Mans next year although nothing is for certain at this point. Technical director Pascal Vasselon indicated earlier in the year that the final decision will likely come at the manufacturer's annual January meeting in Tokyo.
Toyota has played an instrumental part in the shaping of future LMP1 regulations including competitive non-hybrid engine rules. In efforts of reducing costs and drawing in new team entries, the team has voiced its opinion to FIA and WEC officials, furthering the somewhat-doubted lifespan of the series' fastest class.