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Toyota Poised for Driver Shakeup

Jose Maria Lopez, Anthony Davidson in question for Toyota’s full-season lineup next season…

Photo: James Moy/Toyota

Toyota Gazoo Racing is poised for a shakeup to its driver lineup for the 2018/19 FIA World Endurance Championship season, with up to two of the Japanese manufacturer’s current full-season pilots reportedly under fire.

It comes amid Fernando Alonso’s recent test in a Toyota TS050 Hybrid in Bahrain, with the Spaniard tipped to join Toyota for multiple races, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, next year.

Sportscar365 has learned that Jose Maria Lopez is unlikely to return, with Anthony Davidson’s full-season drive potentially under question as well, amid an up-and-down year for both drivers.

Lopez had multiple mishaps in his rookie season in LMP1, most notably a back-breaking accident at Silverstone that resulted in the Argentinean having been moved to the team’s third car for Le Mans.

While he rejoined the No. 7 entry following the French endurance classic, an accident in the closing stages of last month’s Six Hours of Shanghai dashed a sure-fire 1-2 finish for Toyota and gave the Manufacturers’ World Championship to Porsche one race early.

Davidson, meanwhile, struggled for pace in selected rounds, coupled with his absence from the Six Hours of Circuit of The Americas, due to what the team had cited as “personal issues.”

The 2014 World Champion, however, rebounded to close out the season with wins in the final three races, showing improved pace.

Toyota’s Pascal Vasselon downplayed Lopez and Davidson’s performances when asked by Sportscar365 about the fate of the drivers during the season-ending round in Bahrain.

“When you have six drivers, you always have some of them not performing as good as the others,” he said. “It’s normal life in an endurance team like this.”

Vasselon, however, did confirm that its current drivers are all on different contract cycles, although he would not disclose the length of Lopez or Davidson’s deals.

“We have a reasonable view of who will drive the car [next year],” he said. “We’ve done a very careful job with the contracts.

“We usually disclose our driver lineup in January during the Tokyo [Toyota motorsports event]. That’s when we finalize things usually, at least officially. Usually it’s prepared in advance.”

While having confirmed its presence for the ‘Super Season’ Toyota is unlikely to field three entries for Le Mans.

Buemi Set to Continue Despite Formula E Switch to Nissan

Sebastien Buemi’s contract with Toyota will not get in the way of the Swiss driver’s likely transition from Renault to Nissan power in the FIA Formula E Championship.

Buemi, who competes in Formula E with Renault e.dams, has a contract with the French team through 2019/20, the first year of Nissan’s involvement in the all-electric championship, when it will take over Renault’s manufacturer license.

“We are not going to fire him because of that,” Vasselon said in reference to driving for a Japanese rival manufacturer. “Our contract has priority, as you have seen this year.”

Buemi missed the New York E-Prix in July due to his Toyota commitments, although there are no clashes between WEC and Formula E next season.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Vince Pettit

    November 27, 2017 at 9:06 am

    Ouch… if Lopez loses out on this he will be frustrated having repordedly losing his Formula E seat due to treating his LMP1 duties as priority!

  2. Jan Swenson

    November 27, 2017 at 10:01 am

    Well so much for the naysayers that said Alonso wouldnt be at Le Mans in a Toy due to the fact Toys have their driver lineups set in concrete.

  3. Travis McBee

    November 27, 2017 at 10:28 am

    Bring in Lotterer and Alonso!

    • Jenner

      November 27, 2017 at 8:02 pm

      Ricky and Jordan.

      • jaysfan

        November 28, 2017 at 3:48 am

        Ricky is signed by Penske Racing and Jordan also staying put with his dad’s team in IMSA

      • Carefull with that Eugene, axe.

        November 28, 2017 at 7:40 am

        The is no way to compare drivers like Alonso and Lotterer to the Taylors, F1 and P1Hs are just another and an upper league.

        • David Chaste

          November 29, 2017 at 7:08 pm

          Wrong. In similar cars they would do similar times. They taylors woukd be even faster in a dpi and on imsa tracks.

          Wait till the Rolex 24 and see.

  4. TF110

    November 27, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    This article is speculation. Lopez ran trouble free in all but one race in Shanghai. Silverstone was an anomaly. He crashed because it was a wet track and supposedly something happened to the car. Not sure about Davidson. But I hope they keep all the drivers on.

  5. David

    November 27, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    I think Toyota would have been a lot happier if they had pipo derani instead of Lopez. Lopez is fast for sure but driving like a touring car driver is a no no for LMP1.

  6. TMG´s Lawyer

    November 27, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    They hired Alonso and Thomas Laurent, everybody knows it.

  7. sukmykok

    November 27, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    Lopez is a great driver i hope they keep him, he ran with fever in shanghai and the crash wasnt his fault the car continued in straight line i think the roll bar was broken

  8. John

    November 27, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    With plenty of top-level drivers, and a shrunken number of seats, especially with crossovers from other series like Alonso, teams can afford to be as picky as they want to be.

    But that’s also one of the great things about sports car racing. Its flexibility in filling seats is not as encumbered by contractual allegiances as it is in other categories, especially with manufacturer allegiances.

    If Alonso wasn’t who he is, he’d never have had the leverage to pressure McLaren into letting him race in IndyCar and WEC. The fact the wants to, and can, race elsewhere has added interest in both.

  9. Richard Reeves

    November 28, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    By my count—sorry for the objectivity—there is only ONE conflict in the F1/WEC schedules in 2018: Fuji on the weekend of 10/21. Alonso could race for Toyota at Spa, Le Mans and Shanghai without conflict. Who would you rather have as your driver: Lopez or Fernando Alonso, one of the two or three fastest road-racing drivers in the world?

    Get real, OK guys?

    • Travis McBee

      November 29, 2017 at 6:02 pm

      You honestly have no clue what you’re going on about.. Lotterer is just as good as Alonso, put them together on a track with equal equipment and you’ll see… perhaps you need to get real bud…

  10. Matt

    November 29, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    McLaren have already stated Alonso will not be allowed to race full time elsewhere

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