Toyota protege Yamashita won't race in WEC in 2021

Toyota has confirmed that Kenta Yamashita will not be part of its LMP1 programme in 2021, signalling a likely return to full-time SUPER GT competition for the Japanese driver.

Toyota protege Yamashita won't race in WEC in 2021

Yamashita was handed a development driver role by Toyota for the 2019/20 FIA World Endurance Championship season off the back of his results in Super Formula and SUPER GT, which he won in 2019 alongside Kazuya Oshima.

He combined those duties with a drive in the WEC’s LMP2 class with High Class Racing, giving him his first experience of European sportscar racing, and earned plaudits from Toyota LMP1 team director Rob Leupen for his performance in the Le Mans 24 Hours.

#33 High Class Racing Oreca 07 - Anders Fjordbach, Mark Patterson, Kenta Yamashita

#33 High Class Racing Oreca 07 - Anders Fjordbach, Mark Patterson, Kenta Yamashita

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Yamashita dovetailed his WEC duties with Super Formula in 2020, withdrawing from SUPER GT full-time but making three cameo appearances during the year, racing in the Fuji opener for SARD and then the final two races for TOM'S.

But the continued effects of the global coronavirus pandemic mean that the 25-year-old is unable to return to the WEC for the 2021 season.

It all but confirms that he will return to SUPER GT full-time in 2021 for Toyota, with driver market speculation linking him with a reunion with former teammate Oshima.

Read Also:

Asked about Yamashita’s situation by Motorsport.com, Leupen replied: “Unfortunately Kenta will not race in LMP2 and is also not part of the programme. The main reason is the pandemic.

"We have seen the difficulties of travelling between Europe and Japan for Kenta, who is also involved in other racing series in Japan, and this made it very difficult.

“He needs to get mileage in the car, it’s different to Kazuki [Nakajima] or Kamui [Kobayashi], who are more [driving in the WEC] on a permanent basis.

“It’s unfortunate for us, Kenta is a very talented driver, but he’ll be remaining in Japan and now we are having thoughts as to who we should add to the programme. But due to the pandemic it will take some time before can announce something in that direction.”

Formula 2 champion Nyck de Vries was added to Toyota’s test and reserve driver roster last year and will continue to undertake those duties throughout the 2021 WEC season.

As well as most likely returning to SUPER GT, Yamashita is also set for another season of racing in Super Formula for Kondo Racing in 2021.

It’s not yet clear whether Nakajima and Kobayashi will be able to remain in Super Formula this year alongside their WEC commitments.

Read Also:

Kenta Yamashita, Kondo Racing

Kenta Yamashita, Kondo Racing

Photo by: Tomohiro Yoshita

shares
comments

Related video

Real Racing gets new look as sponsor Keihin exits

Previous article

Real Racing gets new look as sponsor Keihin exits

Next article

Makino discharged from hospital after one month

Makino discharged from hospital after one month
Load comments

About this article

Series Super GT , WEC
Drivers Kenta Yamashita
Teams Toyota Gazoo Racing WEC
Author Jamie Klein
How 'Brilliant' Bob Wollek lived up to his nickname Prime

How 'Brilliant' Bob Wollek lived up to his nickname

Sportscar racing lost one of it's greatest talents 20 years ago today when Bob Wollek was knocked from his bicycle prior to the Sebring 12 Hours. The enigmatic Frenchman never won the Le Mans 24 Hours, but many still remember today why 'Brilliant Bob' became a legend

WEC
Mar 16, 2021
How Ferrari's Hypercar project could bolster Leclerc's legacy Prime

How Ferrari's Hypercar project could bolster Leclerc's legacy

Ferrari's planned return to the top category at the Le Mans 24 Hours has further heightened anticipation for the 2023 race. Few concrete details are currently known, but already it has a high-profile superstar angling for involvement, which would make a refreshing change

WEC
Mar 5, 2021
Why Ferrari is ending its 50-year top-flight sportscar racing exile Prime

Why Ferrari is ending its 50-year top-flight sportscar racing exile

Making a return to top-flight sportscar racing after 50 years away, Ferrari will enter the Le Mans Hypercar ranks in 2023. The Italian marque denies the link with Formula 1's new cost cap that frees up resources, but it's certainly no coincidence...

WEC
Feb 25, 2021
The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC Prime

The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s decision to scrap its GT Le Mans class for 2022 raises the question of whether the FIA World Endurance Championship should phase out GTE cars. But it's a much harder decision than it appears on the surface.

WEC
Feb 3, 2021
The ground-up refresh behind Toyota's new Le Mans challenger Prime

The ground-up refresh behind Toyota's new Le Mans challenger

Toyota's new GR010 contender for the World Endurance Championship's Hypercar era has little in common with the LMP1 TS050 that preceded it. But within the confines of the scaled back new rules, its latest challenger will be no less formidable a prospect

WEC
Jan 22, 2021
The tiny increments that decided the final LMP1-era WEC Prime

The tiny increments that decided the final LMP1-era WEC

The system of success handicaps devised by the FIA World Endurance Championship to level the LMP1 playing field in the category's swansong season ended up having a counterproductive effect, as COVID cancellations also played in the champions' favour.

WEC
Dec 5, 2020
Why Audi’s shock return promises a new age for sportscars Prime

Why Audi’s shock return promises a new age for sportscars

OPINION: The news that Audi will return to Le Mans means we'll at last get to see the fight promised in 2012 against Peugeot and Toyota. It also gives LMDh a tangible form, which could open the floodgates for more like-minded marques to follow suit…

WEC
Dec 1, 2020
The eternal debate revived after the 2019/20 WEC season Prime

The eternal debate revived after the 2019/20 WEC season

It may have been missed amid the clamour over Lewis Hamilton's seventh F1 title, but Britain had another world champion crowned last weekend. Mike Conway's WEC crown raises an old conundrum - does title glory make up for the pain of Le Mans defeat?

WEC
Nov 19, 2020