The Japanese firm keeps fans guessing on several fronts
Toyota salvaged something from a season of underachievement in the World Endurance Championship finale in Bahrain. The completion of an end-of-season hat-trick for Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima in November meant it outscored Porsche five-four in terms of race victories. Yet this consolation prize was overshadowed by events the following day.
Two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso drove one of the marque’s TS050 HYBRIDs in the official WEC test the day after the race, confirmation of his run only coming the night before. The lack of fanfare for his run-out was followed by near silence from the man himself the following day.
There was no press call, just a TV interview lasting little more than a minute. Little was communicated about a test that may or may not lead to a drive in next year’s Le Mans 24 Hours as Alonso bids to complete the unofficial triple crown by adding wins in the French enduro and the Indy 500 to his two in the Monaco Grand Prix.
If Alonso’s late confirmation was confusing, the words of one of the key members of Toyota’s racing hierarchy the following day were doubly so. Hisatake Murata, president of the Toyota Motorsport GmbH squad, gave the strongest indication yet that the TS050s will be back on the WEC grid for the 2018/19 superseason. He used the phrases “we’ll be back” and “see you next year” on stage at the championship’s prize-giving ceremony.
There was, however, no official confirmation in the aftermath of his words. That will have to wait until the publication of next season’s rules. When Toyota sees the regulations in black and white, it will put its participation in 2018/19 down on paper, too.