Toyota commits to WEC's 2019/20 season

Toyota will remain in the FIA World Endurance Championship for the 2019/20 season.

Toyota commits to WEC's 2019/20 season

The Japanese manufacturer has confirmed its participation in the WEC in the first season run to the winter calendar as part of its annual motorsport statement.

Toyota will again field a pair of TS050 Hybrids in the WEC, its announcement following regular statements of intent to continue beyond the end of the current 2018/19 superseason over the past 12 months.

The Toyota Motorsport GmbH squad stated at the most recent WEC round last November in Shanghai that it was already beginning preparations for another assault on the championship.

A driver line-up for the 2019/20 campaign under the Toyota Gazoo Racing banner has yet to be revealed. This will be "announced at a later date", according to the statement.

It is expected that the TMG will enter the 2019/20 campaign with a largely unchanged roster of drivers. A number of its current line-up are known to be under contract beyond the end of the current season.

Two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso's place in the team is unclear, however. He has stated that it is "50/50" whether he will remain with Toyota beyond the end of the superseason.

Toyota's announcement, as expected, makes no reference to the hypercar class due to come into effect for the 2020/21 season. It traditionally only announces its motorsport plans only for the coming season.

TMG technical director Pascal Vasselon suggested in the wake of the publication of the hypercar rules in December that a commitment to the category was unlikely on the announcement of its 2019 programme.

"Toyota reveals its plans year by year, so we are far ahead of an announcement about the new rules," he told Motorsport.com.

"We are definitely interested and we are happy because we have been promoting many of the key elements of these regulations."

Author's view

A typically perfunctory press release that makes no mention of the hypercar concept rules shouldn't be interpreted in any way as a signal of Toyota's lack of interest in WEC's new top class.

Toyota has been one of the prime movers in the category and should still be regarded as a likely early adopter of the regulations.

The rhetoric coming out of TMG in Cologne, and to a lesser extent, company headquarters in Japan suggests that Toyota expects to be on the new-look WEC grid in 18 months' time.

And probably uniquely among the manufacturers around the table as the rules were written, Toyota has the ability to do so as an existing participant in LMP1.

The confirmation of the 2019/20 campaign hints at a long-term commitment to the series: why else would it want to continue to race without factory opposition unless it is some kind of lead-in to the next era of the WEC?

The only other reason could possibly be an attempt to get its hands on the Le Mans 24 Hours trophy. Should it follow up on its 2018 victory at the French enduro this year and then next, it would get to keep the silverware.  

Yet there are no clues in today's announcement about whether Toyota is wavering in its commitment to the WEC at a time when no other manufacturer has signed up for the new rules.

Toyota's minimalist press statement probably wasn't what the WEC and its promoter, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, wanted to read, but it was par for the course.

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