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.