Could Toyota make its return to compete in the NTT IndyCar Series when the open-wheel championship shifts to new hybrid engines?
Ongoing rumors have positioned the Japanese brand that won the 2002 CART title with Cristiano da Matta and 2003 Indianapolis 500 with Gil de Ferran as having an interest in joining the fight with Chevy and Honda when the series moves to 2.4-liter twin-turbo V6 engine format utilizing kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS).
Adding to the intrigue, French IndyCar commentators mentioned the possibility of Toyota joining IndyCar during Sunday’s broadcast of the Long Beach Grand Prix, which took the subject into the public domain.
Speaking with Toyota Racing Development president Dave Wilson on Wednesday, the manufacturer’s American open-wheel interest was not confirmed or denied.
“Toyota and TRD are always having discussions within the garages that we currently compete as well as with other sanctioning bodies to ensure we keep up relationships and maintain a finger on the pulse of U.S. motorsports,” he told RACER.
“We enjoyed previous experience with CART and IndyCar and trust that under Roger Penske’s stewardship, IndyCar will continue to prosper. Right now, however, our focus is on our competition in NASCAR, IMSA, SRO, NHRA, Formula Drift, USAC, POWRi and Championship Off Road Racing.”
With its dominance of IMSA’s GTP class completed in 1993, Toyota’s next North American road racing act came via the CART IndyCar Series in 1996. Its time in open-wheel continued through the 2005 IndyCar Series season, and in recent years, Toyota’s luxury and performance brand Lexus has carried on the road racing tradition in IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with the front-running Vasser Sullivan team based out of North Carolina.
On the international stage, Toyota has made use of small-displacement turbocharged V6 engines mated to KERS units to capture the last four overall wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its LMP1 and Hypercar prototypes.
The last time IndyCar had three manufacturers in the paddock was 2012, when Lotus joined Chevy and Honda in the debut of the series’ new 2.2-liter turbo V6 regulations. The British marque left at the end of the year, and since then, Chevy and Honda have repeatedly called for another automotive brand to join the growing series.