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Le Mans 24 Hours of Le Mans test day

Lopez's Toyota return at Le Mans "like I had never left"

Jose Maria Lopez drove the Toyota GR010 HYBRID as though he had never left the Japanese manufacturer’s Hypercar squad after replacing Mike Conway for this weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hours.

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid: Jose Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi, Nyck De Vries

Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe technical boss David Floury revealed that the Argentinian was "up to speed immediately" on his return to the cockpit of the Le Mans Hypercar at last weekend's Le Mans Test Day for the first time since the 2023 World Endurance Championship finale in Bahrain.

"By the look of the lap times it was like he drove the car yesterday," said Floury. "No big issues and clearly motivated like hell — he has worked very hard to get up to speed with all the car systems.

"We can already see that he is on top of things; we are quite confident that there will be no issues in the race."

Lopez's comments after ending up 10th in the second of the three-hour Test Day sessions on Sunday ahead of race week for the blue riband WEC round echoed those of Floury.

"It came back like I'd never left," said Lopez, who switched over from the Auto Sport Promotion Lexus LMGT3 after Conway had to withdraw with the injuries sustained in a cycling accident last Thursday.

"I was thinking because I was coming from a slower car… but it's in the brain, as soon as you jump in, it's like 'bang'. Lap two I was already very good."

Photo by: Rainier Ehrhardt

Lopez revealed that he was training together with Conway at the time of the accident and that he wasn't expecting to get the call to return to the line-up of the #7 Toyota, which he drove in the WEC with Conway and Kamui Kobayashi from 2017 until his replacement by Nyck de Vries for this season.

Toyota chose to bring him back into the Hypercar line-up rather than promoting reserve and test driver Ritomo Miyata because of his experience.

Miyata will make his first Le Mans start this year with the Cool Racing LMP2 squad.

Lopez wouldn't be drawn on whether his return to the #7 Toyota could be extended to cover the Interlagos 6 Hours WEC round in July.

"I hope for Mike it is only a one-off; Mike is like a brother to me," he said.

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