Toyota Gazoo Racing has announced their 2018 and 2019 plans for the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The team will enter two cars for the full FIA WEC season, and has chosen only to enter two cars for the 24 Hours of Le Mans too. They had a third car entered in 2017 for that particular race.
5 out of 6 drivers are the same, with them being joined by a new, but very well known face in the last seat.
Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez will once again pilot the Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 Hybrid #7, while Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso will be running the car #8.
Alonso will participate at 7 out of the 8 rounds in the 2018/19 season, since there is a date clash between the FIA WEC round at Fuji and the Formula 1 race at COTA. The plan for now is to miss the FIA WEC round, but that will probably be re-evaluated, in case he leads the FIA WEC Championship prior to that round…
Fernando Alonso will replace Anthony Davidson in car #8, who will become test and reserve driver for the team. Davidson missed one of the races during the 2017 due to personal reasons, that still haven’t been specified. Davidson already hinted to not really have interest in the World Championship but Le Mans only in 2017, since he already had won that World Title in 2014, and that mindset might well have proved to be reason for the degradation of him within the team.
Many had tipped Lopez to be the one to step out of a race seat, since the Argentinian had many problems adapting to the series, and had a lot of incidents, including his back injury at Silverstone, which put him on the sidelines for the 6 hours race at Spa Francorchamps.
Fernando Alonso had his first test in the car during the Rookie test post season in Bahrain back in November. Neither Toyota nor Alonso had a lot of comments back then, but the rumours about at least a Le Mans start was already present back then.
Alonso had his sports car racing debut last weekend during the Daytona 24 Hours, where he raced for United Autosports in their LMP2 car.
The FIA WEC season starts on 6 and 7 April at Paul Ricard, where the Prologue prior to the season is held. Alonso will have plenty of hours in the simulator in Cologne before that, and will attend the pre-season testing at the real race tracks as well.