Toyota has confirmed that Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima will share its new hybrid LMP1 car in selected World Endurance Championship races in 2012, including the Le Mans 24 Hours.
All three drivers are now expected to drive the hybrid LMP1 car for the first time at the roll-out, which will take place early in the new year at an as-yet-unconfirmed European venue. The length of their respective contracts was not disclosed.
“As soon as I heard about the possibility to join the team I was instantly excited and keen to be involved,” said Wurz, a two-time Le Mans winner and multiple F1 podium finisher. “I love endurance racing and I have been a fan of Le Mans since my childhood so I have great memories of Toyotas competing there, particularly the GT-One which was a really sexy, cool-looking car.
“As an ambitious Le Mans racer, this heritage combined with the immense technical capabilities at TMG makes a very attractive combination. So I am extremely happy to be involved, along with Nicolas and Kazuki. One of the most important things in endurance racing is the connection between the drivers. If the drivers are working together it is a very productive situation for the team and ultimately improves lap times and results. Nicolas has shown his speed while I really rate Kazuki as a person and a driver so I think we will be a strong team.
“I can't wait to get started and I am fascinated by the new challenge of competing with a hybrid car. It is the future of racing so I am very excited that Toyota comes in with this technology. I know Toyota has a lot of expertise in this area and I hope this plays to our advantage.”
Lapierre and Nakajima are also looking forward to the challenge: “To be selected by a company like Toyota for such a new and interesting project is a proud moment for me,” said Lapierre. “We are at the beginning of a big challenge and I am very excited.
“TMG has some very impressive capabilities and, together with the hybrid system, we have the potential to develop a really strong car. I am interested to experience the hybrid system for the first time; this adds a different aspect to our challenge and we have to consider some different strategic factors. It's great to be involved at the beginning with this technology and I hope it will give us a performance advantage.
“I'm also pleased to be part of such a strong driver line-up. I raced against Kazuki in GP2; he is definitely a fast driver and also a good team player, which is very important in endurance racing. Alex is a two-time Le Mans winner so he is a great benchmark for us, but he is also able to build a strong team spirit. I believe the choice of drivers is very good and I am looking forward to working together as a team.”
“I am thrilled to have been chosen to become a member of Toyota's World Endurance Championship team,” added Nakajima, a graduate of the Toyota Young Drivers' Programme, who raced in F1 with Williams during 2008-2009. “To return to Le Mans, and to take part in this new championship, means a lot to Toyota so I am very honoured to be a part of it.