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?
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