The Japanese company announced on Friday that Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria López will once again race the #7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid and that defending champions Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa will be staying together in the #8 Le Mans Hypercar.
Lopez, who won WEC titles with Kobayashi and Conway in 2019/20 and 21, has been retained for a sixth season by Toyota Gazoo Racing after it looked like he would lose out to Nyck de Vries for 2023.
It is understood that de Vries would have moved from the test and reserve driver position to a full-time racing seat in Lopez’s place if he failed to secure the Formula 1 deal, which he eventually achieved with AlphaTauri.
“We achieved all our goals this year, winning Le Mans, Fuji and the World Championship,” said Kobayashi, who was named WEC team manager late last year. [drivers’ and manufacturers’]Thanks to the great support from Toyota and our partners.
“But we are starting again in 2023 with stronger competition, so we need to improve ourselves, make our team and our car even stronger.
“The drivers are an important part of our team and I’m excited to be driving alongside Mike, Jose, Seb, Brendon and Rio again in 2023.
“We have a strong team spirit throughout the entire team, particularly between the drivers, and we race together as one family.”
#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 – Hybrid LMP1: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez
Photo by: Toyota Racing
He described this spirit as “a great strength for our team” and stressed its importance for the new season when Ferrari, Porsche and Cadillac join the WEC supercar class.
“This big fight is what we all want in motorsport and I think it will be really exciting for the fans,” he added.
Lopez said, “I’m very happy to continue on the team for another year, especially alongside Mike and Kamui.
“We have a really close relationship and have become like brothers over the past seasons.
“There is great spirit through the whole team and we will need that to take the fight next year when the Hypercar class is incredibly competitive.”
Hirakawa, who replaced Kazuki Nakajima in the 2022 No. 8, made it clear that he aims to “come back stronger and more ready for the big challenge” in his second season at the World Senior Championship.
Toyota’s announcement made no mention of a reserve driver and whether de Vries would be replaced.
No details were provided about the upgrades planned for the GR010 Hybrid next year.
Toyota has chosen to develop the GR010 LMH design for its third season rather than build a new car, as it confirmed earlier this month.
The updates, according to Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe technical director Pascal Vassilon, will be “more subtle” than those introduced for 2022, which were only confirmed before the season opener at Sebring in March.