TOYOTA EXPANDS IN WEC
Toyota will increase its participation in this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship by expanding to run a third car for Le Mans and Spa.
The Japanese brand will field a third TS050 Hybrid in the WEC event in Belgium as a warm-up to a three-car attack at La Sarthe in June. The expansion follows Toyota’s loss at Le Mans last season, when its car failed with just a lap to go.
Toyota team president Toshio Sato said: “I believe this is an exciting time for Toyota Gazoo Racing in endurance racing. Entering three cars for Spa and Le Mans represents a new challenge for our team. We are working hard to be prepared and we are inspired to win.”
Alongside the third car, three-time World Touring Car champion Jose Maria Lopez has been confirmed as one of Toyota’s full-season WEC entries. He will join Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi in one car, with 2014 world champions Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima in the sister machine.
Stephane Sarrazin steps back from a full WEC campaign, but will be one of the drivers for the third car. His team-mates have yet to be announced.
Following Audi’s withdrawal for 2017, just two Porsches, two Toyotas and a single privateer Bykolles make up the top LMP1 category, with Toyota’s extra car limiting the loss of entries.
The effect of the new LMP2 regulations has also had an impact, with just one of the four mandated chassis suppliers represented on the WEC grid as ORECA dominates the category.
The class entry remains stable at 10 cars, but they are fielded by just six teams. Rebellion will run two cars after its step down from privateer P1 competition, while both Manor and the Jota Sport-operated Jackie Chan Racing team also have two cars.
Signatech runs two Alpine A470s, but they are essentially also rebadged ORECAS.
In contrast the European Le Mans Series will feature three different chassis for this year on its entry list, which consists of 13 cars from 13 different teams.
The WEC entry is 28 cars, down from the 32 from 2016.