Toyota has officially confirmed its entry in the 2018/19 FIA World Endurance Championship's Superseason in the premier LMP1 category with its TS050 HYBRID cars. The confirmation comes as a relief for the organisers amid host of changes in the endurance category.
The statement from Toyota's president Akio Toyoda read: "More than 100 years have passed since the birth of the automobile. As we approach times of tremendous change represented by electrification, automation and other developments, I am strongly determined to make sure that cars will be fun for the next 100 years.
"Since 2012, we have taken up the challenge of the FIA World Endurance Championship, including the Le Mans 24 Hours, with race cars equipped with hybrid technologies. Of course, we have always approached this challenge with a desire to drive faster than any other car and to win. Yet our cars carried our desire for more than just that.
"Not only did we want to heighten environmental performance in terms of fuel efficiency and such, we also had a very strong desire to create hybrid cars that made drivers feel that driving is fun, and that made them want to keep at it and want to let the cars keep on going.
"This year, I went to Le Mans for the first time and heard people cheering for Toyota. I also heard many people saying that they would like to see Toyota come out with a hybrid sports car like our cars in the race. I, too, would like us to produce just such a car, and I think it would be one that would help make cars fun for the next 100 years.
"This year, our cars were extremely fast on the roads of Le Mans. But they were not able to combine speed with the strength needed to keep at it for 24 hours. While wanting to provide cars that our customers will want to ride in and drive, I keenly realized that we have a long way to go.
"It is highly regrettable that our rival in honing technologies on the roads of Le Mans has left. Yet the World Endurance Championship, in which cars of different categories race at the same time, and particularly Le Mans, where the battle goes on for 24 hours, including on public roads, still represent the optimal proving ground for achieving the goal of making cars fun for the next 100 years.
"The ever-better cars that Toyota pursues are honed and created via the extreme environment of motorsport. That is exactly why we will persistently engage in motorsport, without being swayed by the good and bad of economic times.
"TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will continue to race in this competition again next season. And, from here on as well, so that we will be able to provide our customers with cars that are fun to drive and cars that they want to let keep on going, we will continue to build on our skills and technology gained thus far. We would be happy to receive everyone’s continued support. Thank you very much.”
In the six years in the championship, Toyota has one constructors' title to its name, which came in 2014 when the #8 trio of Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Nicolas Lapierre took the drivers' crown. At the same time, the Japanese manufacturer has had poor luck in Le Mans 24 Hours.
In the six attempts in the lead LMP1 category, Toyota is yet to win the grueling event, whereas, in the two attempts in the old GT1/LMGTP category, the Japanese manufacturer took class win in 1999 in a joint association of Toyota Motorsports and Team Toyota Europe.
After the pull-out from Audi and Porsche in the last two years, even though Toyota has a huge opportunity to claim its first Le Mans win in the upcoming Superseason, but it will come against only the majority of the privateers LMP1 cars.
Nevertheless, the Japanese manufacturer is itching to get its name on the winning board in the prestigious event. The team also revealed that its driver line-up will be confirmed early next year - with rumours circulating that all six drivers will be retained.
This year Toyota had fielded two cars for the full season, while had its third car for the Le Mans event. The main line-up saw Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez in the #7 car with Stephane Sarrazin filling in for Lopez for the one event.
Meanwhile, the #8 car had Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Davidson, with Sarrazin also filling up for Davidson in the one event. For the Le Mans round, the #9 car had Yuji Kunimoto, Lapierre and Lopez, with Sarrazin also racing in the Spa event preceding the Le Mans with Kunimoto and Lapierre.
The driver decision will play an important role with the two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso also trying to get a seat for at least Le Mans, in order to complete his goal of a Triple Crown. The Spaniard already had his maiden LMP1 drive with Toyota in the season-ending 'Rookie Test'.