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.