Third Toyota for Fuji an “Open Question”

Photo: James Moy/Toyota

Toyota Gazoo Racing could field a third TS050 Hybrid in the Six Hours of Fuji if the Japanese manufacturer claims overall victory in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, team director Rob Leupen has revealed to Sportscar365.

The factory LMP1 squad, which expanded into a three-car operation in last month’s FIA World Endurance Championship round at Spa in preparation for Le Mans, has not ruled out the increased effort for its home race.

“For us, it’s an open question,” Leupen told Sportscar365. “I think we have to create some prerequisites for this, for example winning Le Mans, and then it’s an offer we would put to TMC [Toyota Motor Corp.] on how you would like us to perform in Fuji.”

Leupen said their funding to run the third car at Spa and Le Mans this year came from TMG’s excess parts budget, due to only “evolutionary” updates to the 2017-spec Toyota instead of an all-new car that it rolled out with in 2016.

The budget for the potential additional race, however, would need to come from Toyota in Japan instead of the Cologne, Germany-based TMG outfit, which operates the works squad.

Leupen said they would likely utilize drivers from their existing lineup for the race, including reigning Super Formula champion Yuji Kunimoto, and potentially Jose Maria Lopez, who is due to move back to the season-long No. 7 Toyota post-Le Mans.

“If they would like to see us with three cars, with Yuji [Kunimoto] and the whole lineup, then yes we would do this of course. The question then is where you’d put Jose Maria.

“But this is something we don’t have to answer today. Let’s first deliver here and go for the race win, nothing less, nothing more.”

Toyota topped the time charts in last weekend’s Le Mans Test Day in convincing fashion and head into next weekend’s event as race favorites.

9 Comments

  1. CookieMonsterFL

    June 5, 2017 at 10:24 am

    Sound business/racing strategy. If you win the biggest race in your company’s history, might as well bring out some pageantry with an extra car for your home 6 Hours.

    If they win, I can absolutely see them plugging in the 3rd car for Fuji.

  2. NaBUru38

    June 5, 2017 at 11:04 am

    I would call Scott Pruett and Heikki Kovalainen.

    • TF110

      June 5, 2017 at 1:04 pm

      Scott will probably be busy in IMSA. Kovalainen is a nice pick though. But why not just stick with Sarrazin, Kunimoto (who knows Fuji very well) and then one Super GT driver? They don’t have to have 3 drivers for 6hr events though, so only two would suffice. Kunimoto and Lopez taking car #9 while just Kobayashi and Conway do car #7 like at Spa.

      • Travis McBee

        June 5, 2017 at 2:27 pm

        Scott’s season will be done a couple weeks before Fuji, but he could be busy developing the Lexus be it a GT3, GTE, or DPi.

      • CM

        June 6, 2017 at 10:22 am

        My pick would be Kunimoto – Sarrazin/Kovalainen – Hirate

    • Maxime Frankum

      June 5, 2017 at 2:28 pm

      I’d like to see Sage Karam in the Toyota!

    • David Chaste

      June 6, 2017 at 6:24 am

      Scott is not interested he could have been driving factory lemans prototypes long ago if he wanted.

      Kovalainen does not deserve a P1 ride more than anyone toyota already has.

  3. Pierce

    June 5, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    I see Lapierre is getting snuffed out again

    • David Chaste

      June 6, 2017 at 6:27 am

      No he is signed with Alpine. They did an exception deal with Alpine for Spa and Lemans hoping he could bring some good luck since he has won lemans in p2 back to back with 2 different teams since they sacked him.

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