Lopez switch raises further Toyota driver questions

posted in: Driver, Homepage, Le Mans, LMP1, Team | 0

José-Maria López hasn’t had the best of starts to his FIA World Endurance Cham­pi­onship career. The 34-year-old triple World Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­on, for­mer­ly named as a full-sea­son dri­ver for the #8 car along­side Mike Con­way and Kamui Kobayashi, has switched to Toyota’s third car for Le Mans.

López’s acci­dent at the first round of the sea­son at Sil­ver­stone saw him miss the sec­ond round in Spa due to injury, lim­it­ing his race time in the TS050 Hybrid to a hand­ful of laps at the British cir­cuit in ear­ly April. With Toy­ota firm­ly eye­ing vic­to­ry at La Sarthe in June, vast­ly expe­ri­enced Stéphane Sar­razin has stepped in to replace the Argen­tine, with López join­ing fel­low rook­ie Le Mans rook­ie Yuji Kuni­mo­to and Toy­ota returnee Nico­las Lapierre.

The Toy­ota line-up is set to return to nor­mal fol­low­ing Le Mans, with López step­ping back into the #8 car for the remain­ing rounds of the sea­son. How­ev­er, one major ques­tion mark hangs over the Toy­ota line-up for the post-Le Mans races.

The Six Hours of the Nür­bur­gring is set to clash with the inau­gur­al New York ePrix, part of the 2016/2017 For­mu­la E cham­pi­onship. López com­petes in For­mu­la E for DS Vir­gin Rac­ing, and so will like­ly miss the For­mu­la E round to com­pete in Ger­many.

López’s Toy­ota col­league Sébastien Bue­mi is cur­rent­ly lead­ing the FIA WEC dri­vers cham­pi­onship by 17 points and, with a good fin­ish at the dou­ble-points round at Le Mans, could estab­lish a con­sid­er­able lead at the head of the cham­pi­onship.

How­ev­er, the Swiss dri­ver also races is For­mu­la E, where he is hav­ing an excel­lent sea­son, tak­ing four vic­to­ries out of five so far for Renault e.Dams – most recent­ly at Mona­co. He is also the reign­ing cham­pi­on, hav­ing tak­ing the title at a nail-bit­ing finale in Lon­don in 2016.

And so suc­cess at La Sarthe may pose Bue­mi some­what of a conun­drum – focus on the defence of his For­mu­la E cham­pi­onship or go for his sec­ond FIA WEC title?

Image © WEC-Mag­a­zin