Two-time and defending FIA World Touring Car Champion Jose Maria Lopez could make a full-time switch to top-level sports car racing once his contract with Citroen runs up at the end of this year. (En Français)
The 32-year-old Argentinian, who has scored 21 victories and 14 pole positions in only two full seasons of WTCC competition, has reportedly already tested Toyota’s LMP1 challenger, ahead of a possible move for 2017.
“Contractually, I cannot say anything before June. And in June, I can start talking to teams,” Lopez told Endurance-Info at this weekend’s WTCC season-opener at Paul Ricard.
With Citroen withdrawing from WTCC at the end of this season, Lopez is currently without a confirmed drive for next year, but is known to have been exploring options in the FIA World Endurance Championship with his manager, Nicolas Todt.
“He’s there to find options that suit me and, above all, to allow me to stay in Europe,” Lopez said. “I do not have a lot of contacts on this continent unlike him.
“Nicolas allows me to explore options which are at my disposal.”
Lopez hasn’t even ruled out taking part in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, after getting permission from Citroen Racing boss Yves Matton to race in the French endurance classic.
However, his options appear to be limited, with the majority of the seats already finalized.
“My contract allows me to do the 24 Hours of Le Mans in LMP2 if I have the opportunity,” he said. “That is true. But for now, I have no concrete proposals.
“It’s hard only to find a seat for this race, especially for a touring car driver. I hope to have the opportunity; I’d really like to do that. It’s a great race and Le Mans has always been part of my goals.”
Lopez admits that he’s been intrigued by endurance racing and the challenge that would come with racing something that’s drastically more powerful than a touring car.
“Eventually, the idea is to go as fast as possible,” he said. “It’s like when you learn to ride a bike: Once you understand, you constantly improve.
“I’ve gained a lot of [racing] experience and I’m no longer 20 years [old]. So I’m not really apprehensive.
“But it’s not yet time to think about what I would do in a year. Of course, when I think that my adventure with Citroen could stop at the end of the season, I’m already very sad. But [that’s] life and motorsports.”