Jose Maria Lopez could be set to move to the No. 9 Toyota TS050 Hybrid for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as part of a possible driver shakeup at Toyota Gazoo Racing for the race.
Lopez crashed out on his FIA World Endurance Championship debut at Silverstone in April, leaving the Argentinean with minor injuries to his vertebrae and forcing him to miss last weekend’s Six Hours of Spa.
While the No. 7 Toyota of Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi went on to finish second in the race as a two-man team, Lopez has revealed that he may not return to that car for Le Mans, in order to give the full-season entry the best chance of success.
“We will see which car I will be driving in the end, because it’s not so sure,” Lopez told Sportscar365. “We will see because I haven’t [done] much driving, so I could find myself maybe driving the No. 9 car.
“That was predicted and we know that, especially for experience, we all want that the team wins Le Mans and that’s the main objective.
“Probably the fact I missed Spa and Silverstone, I’m not maybe going to be 100 percent at Le Mans. There would be no problem to be in another car, because in the end the cars are the same.
“The teammates that I have, they are very strong.”
It’s unclear if Lopez’s possible move to the No. 9 car could be part of a greater driver shakeup within the team, with LMP1 debutant Yuji Kunimoto having struggled at Spa alongside his more experienced co-drivers Stephane Sarrazin and Nico Lapierre, who both had previously been part of Toyota’s full-season lineup.
Ryo Hirakawa, who was in contention for a race seat in the third car and completed significant pre-season testing, is currently the team’s reserve driver.
When reached by Sportscar365, a Toyota spokesperson said they don’t have anything to say regarding any potential changes at this time.
The three-time WTCC champion is returning to the wheel of a race car in this weekend’s FIA Formula E race in Monaco, just one week after sitting out of the Spa WEC event.
Lopez has a test scheduled in the Toyota later this month at Spa, ahead of the Le Mans Test Day on June 4.
“It is hard to be out of a car, honestly. It’s really hard and it’s something that for sure I didn’t want and didn’t predict,” Lopez said of sitting out the Spa race.
“But at the same time it was a pleasure to see my teammates performing that well. They did a fantastic race. Even also the two sister cars did a fantastic job.
“It’s very nice to see that Toyota is performing well. Now the big race is coming. Really looking forward to being at Le Mans.”