Nancy Knapp Schilke, WEC correspondent
Toyota Racing just announced that they will cancel their TS030 Hybrid’s debut for the 6 hour race at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. The LM P1 team had planned their first race at the Belgium event which will be the second round of the 2012 first season in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The accident occurred during their planned 30 hour endurance test at Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet. Team driver Nicolas Lapierre was in the cockpit of the TS030 and was uninjured; but their only monocoque was damaged. Per the Toyota statement: “Regrettably this damage is too severe to repair. A replacement monocoque cannot be produced and sufficiently tested to ensure reliability within the limited time available.”
Lapierre, Alexander Wurz, and Kazuki Nakajima will now have to sit out the May 5th race as Toyota now plans to make their first race on the La Sarthe circuit in France for the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Toyota team president Yoshiaki Kinoshita said, “We are deeply saddened to announce this decision and our sympathies are with the drivers, team members and fans who have been anticipating the Spa race so eagerly. Since the accident we have looked into all options but unfortunately there is no alternative course of action open to us.”
On the heels of the Toyota announcement, the WEC released the hopefully final grid for the six hour Spa race in May. They have reached the maximum allowance with a total of 42 cars; including the debut of the Audi R18 e-tron Quattro. There will be 27 prototypes and 15 GT cars when the first practice takes place on the Belgium circuit. There were other entries filed but the capacity allowed on pit lane was a factor in the determination for the maximum entries.
“This is a fantastic grid for only the second race in the FIA World Endurance Championship,”said ACO President Jean-Claude Plassart prior to adding his comments on the loss of Toyota’s Hybrid. “We have to remember this is a brand new project and Toyota was originally not intending to be a full WEC entrant. The company have done a fantastic job to expand their plans and with six of the eight rounds counting for the World Championship, Toyota can still take the fight to Audi.”