TOYOTA GAZOO Racing have today announced the updated driver line-up for the 2016 World Endurance Championship season.
After the 2015 car proved seriously uncompetitive when compared to their German rivals Porsche and Audi, the 2014 Worl Championship winning team have developed a completely new TS050 HYBRID car for this season, with significant changes to all areas, including monocoque, engine and a new hybrid system.
On the driver front, 2014 World Champions Anthony Davidson (GB) and Sébastien Buemi (CH) are again joined by Kazuki Nakajima (JP) for a second consecutive season together.
In the other car, former TOYOTA Formula 1 racer Kamui Kobayashi (JP) steps up from test and reserve driver to a race seat for 2016, replacing the retired Austrian Alex Wurz. He will race alongside Stéphane Sarrazin (F) and Mike Conway (GB).
Race numbers for the 2016 season will be revealed on 5 February by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, organisers of the WEC and the Le Mans 24 Hours during the joint press conference in Paris.
Kobayashi’s move to a race seat now leaves a vacancy for a test and reserve driver, which will be announced, along with full technical details of the TS050 HYBRID, at a launch event on 24 March at the Paul Ricard circuit in France.
The new driver line-up was announced earlier today at a TOYOTA GAZOO Racing press conference in Tokyo, Japan, at which the team’s new TOYOTA GAZOO Racing identity was also revealed.
As well as an updated logo, a 2015 show car displayed the new black, white and red livery which will be modified for the TS050 HYBRID. This revised colour scheme follows the team’s adoption of the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing name in May last year, signifying the increasing importance of motorsport to TOYOTA.
Toshio Sato, Team President: “Once again, for the 2016 season we will have a very strong driver line-up. Kamui showed his speed and commitment in testing, so it was a relatively easy decision to select him to replace Alex. We know he is capable of doing a good job alongside Stéphane and Mike. I believe we have two strong driver line-ups who will be able to get the best out of the TS050 HYBRID. With this all-new car, 2016 is a big season for us; I believe we have the drivers and the car to succeed.”
Anthony Davidson: “I can’t wait for the new season, especially with a completely new car which we hope will bring us back to the top in WEC. It’s positive to have a stable driver line-up in our car. I have a great working relationship with Sébastien and Kazuki so I expect to be fighting for wins together this year.”
Sébastien Buemi: “I’m happy and proud to be a TOYOTA GAZOO Racing driver in WEC for a fifth season and I’m looking forward to the challenge. Endurance racing is all about team work and I think myself, Anthony and Kazuki make a really strong combination. I like working with them and I’m ready to go racing again.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “It’s great to be part of this team again, alongside Anthony and Sébastien. We learnt a lot together during a difficult 2015 so I believe we will come back stronger this season. We are all motivated to have success with the TS050 HYBRID and everyone is working flat-out to achieve this.”
Stéphane Sarrazin: “I am really proud to be part of the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing in WEC; we have a great spirit and we never stop pushing. I’m happy to be driving with Mike and Kamui. I worked very well with Mike last year and I am sure it will be the same with Kamui. He’s a quick driver and we all share the same determination to win.”
Mike Conway: “Last season was my first time in an LMP1 at many of the tracks so I was getting stronger at each race. Now I can’t wait for the new season when I have the benefit of that experience. I’d like to welcome Kamui to our car; I’m happy to have him on board and looking forward to working with him.”
Kamui Kobayashi: “I’m really excited to be an LMP1 race driver and I would like to thank TOYOTA for this opportunity. I tested the TS040 HYBRID a few times and it was a seriously impressive car; the power of the hybrid system in particular was amazing. Now I can’t wait to see what the new car feels like; I am sure it will be a big step forward and put us back in the fight at the front. Racing in LMP1 will be a new experience for me and I am looking forward to it a lot. There will be plenty to learn but I know my team-mates will support me and I am sure I can be competitive right from the start. Now my focus is on preparing properly for the new season and being absolutely ready for Silverstone.”