This year’s title-winning Super GT outfit Team LeMans will not continue in the Toyota stable in 2020, Autosport has learned.
Team LeMans won the GT500 title earlier this month at Motegi with Kazuya Oshima and Kenta Yamashita, adding to the All-Japan GT Championship success it earned back in 2002 with Akira Iida and now-team boss Juichi Wakisaka.
It has been a fixture in the Toyota and Lexus stables since the 1999 season, when it first campaigned a Supra in the JGTC, but sources have told Autosport that a split between Team LeMans and Toyota is imminent.
When asked to comment on that situation, Toyota Gazoo Racing general manager Keizo Takahashi told Autosport: “I can neither confirm nor deny.”
It is believed Toyota still intends to run six of its all-new GR Supra cars in the series’ top division next season, which raises the prospect of a new team joining the Toyota camp.
KCMG has previously been linked to such a move and appears the most likely candidate to fill the breach left by Team LeMans given its existing relationship with Toyota in Super Formula, in which it fields a single car for Kamui Kobayashi.
Team LeMans could yet defend its Super GT title with a different manufacturer, namely Honda – which could also prompt a switch of allegiance in Super Formula.
The squad has run Toyota engines in Formula Nippon and Super Formula since engine competition was reintroduced in 2006.
However, doubts remain about whether Honda is prepared to supply the team engines in Super Formula, as it is already set to supply the returning Drago Corse outfit in 2020.
It is also unclear whether Honda would field a sixth NSX-GT in SUPER GT to accommodate Team LeMans or whether it could replace one of its current GT500 outfits.
Team LeMans leaving the Toyota fold also means champions Oshima and Yamashita may need to find alternative drives, although Yamashita could elect to drop out of the series and focus on his World Endurance Championship commitments instead.
Yamashita has been placed with the High Class Racing LMP2 team for the 2019/20 campaign, and is a contender for a role in Toyota’s hypercar programme in 2020/21.