Toyota leaves the door open for the return of Kenta Yamashita

SUPER GT champion and Tremendous System race winner Yamashita was the primary driver chosen for the Toyota ‘WEC Problem’ Driver Improvement Program, and earned the chance to race within the LMP2 Group Excessive Class Racing’s LMP2 World Sports activities Automobile Sequence in 2019-20.

The marketing campaign culminated within the debut of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and in addition included a stroll in Toyota’s TS050 Hybrid LMP1 (pictured beneath) at Bahrain’s official WEC entry-level check.

for the 2021 season, Yamashita has chosen to return to racing in Japan full time After a 12 months out of the SUPER GT – throughout which he moved briefly to Cologne, Germany, close to Toyota’s WEC base, earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nevertheless, Toyota Group Principal Rob Leupen believes her LMP2 expertise with Yamashita was worthwhile and he or she’s open to repeating it with one other driver sooner or later – and even Yamashita himself.

“LMP2 is a beneficial class for accessing LMH [Hypercar],” Lubin instructed Motorsport.com. “We have seen it with many drivers, for instance, if [Toyota reserve driver Nyck] De Vries will find yourself at LMH, and the story would be the identical.

“It occurs and it’ll proceed to be the case, I believe. If you’re serious about having the next endurance seat, it is very important be there. [in LMP2].

“And I believe we are able to additionally say that if Kenta reassess his place, I’ll ask my Japanese colleagues to see how we are able to make him obtainable once more.

“No doubt, Kenta is a really quick driver. That’s the very first thing.”

Lubin added that he had no qualms about Yamashita’s determination to show down the chance to remain in Europe past the 2019/20 season.

“It is a danger now we have to take,” he stated. “And drivers are like regular individuals: if they do not like what they’re doing, they search for one other alternative. In the event that they resolve they need to focus extra on the collection they’re already doing, that is okay. It is a part of free alternative.”

After contacting Motorsport.com to reply to Leupen’s feedback, Yamashita reiterated that including the Tremendous System title to his 2019 SUPER GT title stays his prime precedence forward of any WEC return.

“After all, I would wish to attempt racing in WEC once more,” stated the 26-year-old. “However initially, I actually need to develop into a Tremendous System champion.

“I need to get titles in each Tremendous System and SUPER GT, after which give it some thought rigorously.”

Yamashita’s determination to remain in Japan in 2021 opened the door for compatriot Ryo Hirakawa to check for the Toyota WEC group after which substitute Kazuki Nakajima for the 2022 season.

Hirakawa joins Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley aboard Toyota’s #8 lineup, with the trio honored at Le Mans 24 Hours earlier this month.

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Lubin described the choice to switch Nakajima, who now performs behind the scenes with Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe after the tip of his racing profession, with the 28-year-old Hirakawa as a “logical determination” and advised that others are prone to comply with from Japan sooner or later.

“For those who say you need to maintain driving with youthful drivers, Rio is the precise individual,” he stated. “There are others that might be excellent, so in the long term Toyota is taking good care of the succession plan on the drivers aspect.

We’ve got Kazuki, Kamui [Kobayashi] And different individuals who search very rigorously [at drivers in SUPER GT and Super Formula], similar to we do with our European drivers. So if there are candidates, they may undergo the choice course of and our process.

“I believe it is essential to keep up this, as we did with Rio, who has had many checks.”

Moreover Yamashita, different main candidates for the WEC alternative on the native Toyota secure embrace Sho Tsuboi, Ritomo Miyata and Sena Sakaguchi, all of whom have expressed curiosity within the class.

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