Toyota Gazoo Racing has confirmed that Nicolas Lapierre and Yuji Kunimoto will complete the team’s lineup for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
As reported by Sportscar365 last week, Lapierre rejoins the Japanese manufacturer for Le Mans, as well as the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship at Spa, in a third Toyota TS050 Hybrid alongside Kunimoto and team veteran Stephane Sarrazin.
Lapierre will be seeking his third consecutive class win at Le Mans, after claiming LMP2 honors in the race with KCMG and Signatech Alpine, the latter team which he will remain part of for the majority of the WEC season.
“I’m really looking forward to racing an LMP1 car again because the cars have developed a lot since I drove the TS040 HYBRID in 2014” he said.
“The Spa race is coming around very quickly so I am fully focused on preparing myself for the new season. I have stood on the podium before at Le Mans with Toyota so my target is clearly to do that again this year.”
Reigning Super Formula champion Kunimoto, meanwhile, is set for his prototype debut, although having spent the last eight years in Super GT, including having scored two wins in 2016 as a factory Lexus driver.
The Japanese star has been chosen over countryman Ryo Hirakawa, who had been initially linked to the final seat in the No. 9 car.
“This is really a dream for me,” Kunimoto said. “I never imagined that one day I could race for a team like Toyota at Le Mans so I am determined to make the most of this opportunity.
“I enjoyed my first tests with the TS050 Hybrid, which is a really impressive car.
“LMP1 and endurance racing in Europe are new to me so I am working hard to learn as much as I can from the team; I am sure I will learn a lot from Stéphane and Nicolas, who are both very experienced and quick.”
Team President Toshio Sato added: “We know Nicolas well and we have maintained a positive relationship. He is a very quick driver who understands what it takes to succeed at Le Mans so I am sure he will fit into the team quickly and easily.
“Yuji is a promising driver who has shown his speed and determination in Japanese racing. In testing he has been consistently fast, as well as a team player, so I am confident he will adapt to the demands of WEC.”
Toyota’s updated LMP1 challenger will be unveiled on Friday during a team presentation at Monza, site of this weekend’s Prologue pre-season test.