Toyota finalises line up for third TS050 HYBRID
Photo: 24 Hours of Le Mans 2013, Sebastien Buemi and Nicolas Lapierre at Scrutineering, Place de la Republique, Le Mans
Toyota Gazoo Racing has confirmed its full driver line-up for the 2017 season, with Yuji Kunimoto and Nicolas Lapierre joining the team for the WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, rounds two and three of the 2017 FIA WEC season.
Yuji and Nicolas will line-up in the No.9 TS050 HYBRID alongside lead driver Stéphane Sarrazin. Yuji, 26, has a wealth of endurance experience from his eight seasons in Super GT and he wrote headlines last year by beating several world-renowned drivers to win the Super Formula championship.
Frenchman Nicolas, 32, is returning to a familiar environment, having raced for the team from 2012 to 2014, earning Toyota’s first hybrid WEC victories. Since then, he has established himself as a leading LMP2 driver, having twice won the class at Le Mans and winning the WEC drivers’ title in 2016.
Today’s announcement completes Toyota Gazoo Racing’s full line up for 2017. At all rounds of the championship, the No.7 car will be driven by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, while Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima will compete in the No.8.
Toshio Sato, Team President: “I am very pleased to welcome Nicolas and Yuji into our driver line-up for the races at Spa and Le Mans. I am confident that, together with a driver of Stéphane’s abilities, we have a strong line-up in the #9. 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.”
Yuji Kunimoto: “This is really a dream for me. 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.”
Nicolas Lapierre: “It’s great to be back with TOYOTA and I would like to thank the team for this opportunity. 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. 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.”