Porsche may have dropped out of the World Endurance Championship, but Toyota is here to stay as the lone LMP1 class manufacturer left. Toyota announced that they will stay for the series’ odd transitional 2018-2019 season at the annual WEC awards ceremony that followed the 6 Hours of Bahrain.
It was the confirmation we were all expecting after two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso confirmed his participation in Sunday’s WEC rookie test with Toyota, but it’s good to hear from the source anyway. Why else would Alonso test Toyota’s car if they weren’t sticking around?
Instead of other manufacturers like Porsche or Audi, however, Toyota’s main competition next year is going to be a handful of privateers. DragonSpeed, SMP Racing and Manor have confirmed entries so far according to Sportscar365, with more non-hybrid-powered, non-manufacturer entries possibly on the way.
While Sportscar365 also notes that it is unlikely that Toyota will field three entries at the 24 Hours of Le Mans next year, they’re still looking for a few possible guests to join them for the longer race—including Fernando Alonso.
Alonso’s test alongside current Toyota drivers Sébastien Buemi and Mike Conway as well as LMP2 driver and newly crowned WEC Rookie of the Year Thomas Laurent Sunday was still somewhat low-key as I’d imagine his current contract with Honda has something to say about promoting Toyota anything.
Alonso completed 113 laps in the No. 8 Toyota TS050 (considerably more than the 31 laps Laurent got in), and seemed to enjoy it, telling Toyota in a press release:
It was a great day. Testing an LMP1 car is always a nice thing for any racing driver because these cars are amazing to drive. They are very consistent throughout a stint which is a positive thing. I have wanted to test a car like this for a long time now and today I could achieve that so I am happy.
Alonso’s fastest time was a 1:43.013, only nine-tenths of a second behind a benchmark lap set by Buemi in the same car, reports Sportscar365.
Toyota technical director Pascal Vasselon told Sportscar365 that he doesn’t expect to release the team’s slate of upcoming drivers until January, likely at Toyota’s annual motorsport event in Tokyo.