Nicolas Lapierre is back. The Toyota test and development driver is set to step in for Nick Tandy in the Oreca 05 LMP2 coupé of KCMG for the WEC races in Spa and Le Mans.
The sudden disappearance of Nicolas Lapierre from the Toyota driver line-up towards the end of last season was surrounded by much confusion and speculation. After Lapierre vacated the cockpit for the Lone Star Le Mans race at the Circuit of the Americas in September for “personal reasons”, he didn’t feature again in the #7 TS040 alongside Sébastian Buemi and Anthony Davidson, which went on to take the drivers’ title. The reason for Lapierre’s sudden departure remains a mystery, with neither driver nor team commenting on the issue. However, the French driver was involved in incidents at both the 2013 and 2014 Le Mans races, which ultimately ended his car’s chances of success. Mike Conway was the driver chosen to step into Lapierre’s shoes for the final flyaway races of the 2014 season, while Lapierre was “demoted” to the role of test and development driver.
Even though the Frenchman has been left empty-handed when it comes to an LMP1 seat, his prototype racing career is by no means over. Hong Kong-run LMP2 team KCMG yesterday announced that Nicolas Lapierre has been signed to race its Oreca 05 coupé together with Richard Bradley and Matt Howson for the second and third rounds of the season in Spa and Le Mans. Lapierre will be replacing Nick Tandy, who has a full-season deal with KCMG but is unable to race in Belgium and France due to his commitments in the third works Porsche LMP1 car, which he is due to pilot alongside Nico Hülkenberg and Earl Bamber.
Lapierre will be given a chance to test out the new Oreca coupé at this week’s Prologue at Circuit Paul Ricard (27/28 March).
Image source: Toyota-Racing