José Maria López last-minute replacement at Toyota: “As if I had never left”

Initially scheduled to drive the No. 87 Lexus, José Maria López will ultimately compete in the No. 7 Toyota. Back in the premier category, Pechito now dreams of returning to the top step of the podium after his success in 2021, in tribute to his great friend Mike Conway.

Published on 13/06/2024 à 16:23

Gonzalo Forbes

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José Maria López last-minute replacement at Toyota: “As if I had never left”

© Charly Lopez / DPPI

We didn't expect to make this point with you and these colors!

(Laughs) Well, they still look like the ones I wear at Lexus. We always feel good there.

At no time did you imagine yourself wearing them this weekend.

No never ! Even less in this way (package of Mike conway). I would have liked it to be another way of course. There are some mixed feelings. After Mike's accident, where I was with him, I didn't necessarily expect it either because Ritomo (Miyata) is the test and reserve driver of Toyota. But hey, that’s how it all happened.

You didn't really have the choice to jump in the car, but you would have accepted it without hesitation anyway, right?

That's it. If there's anyone Mike would have liked to see in the car instead of him and if he could have chosen, it's me. On this point I am quite calm.

Have you been able to talk with him since his cycling accident?

Every day. He is fine. He is aware of everything, he participates in team meetings. He is always present with us.

Coming back to your subject, how did you experience this start of the season where there was a move to LMGT3?

Alright. It's a different project but it remains just as important for the brand. We knew that it was not going to be easy to arrive in this very competitive category, where there are manufacturers who have been present almost forever. I think about Ferrari ou Porsche…in addition to all the brands that have been added. It's not easy, especially since we were aware that we would have to take on this challenge these first years with a car that has had its few seasons under its belt and on which no further development is planned and which is no longer being manufactured. . The beginnings are a little complicated but that's what we expected. We have to try to make do with what we have and perhaps be helped by the BoP in order to be a little more competitive and fight a little higher.

By diving back into the Hypercar, you lost all your time afterwards the exit of Kamui Kobayashi in qualifying on Wednesday and you will leave 23e. Will there be a need to change the approach upon departure?

You will obviously have to be a little more careful. In reality, if you have a good car, in a 24 hour race you should be able to move up. This is why I am not worried after the qualifying events. These are things that can happen when you are at the limit. Today, competition is increased. This makes the elements more complicated. But at the end of the day, the most important thing is knowing that we have a good car, with pace for the race. If we have this whole package, we know we will have the opportunity to fight because some people can qualify in the top 5 and that's all they have. With what we have been able to show in testing, the car is competitive, both day and night. We are here to fight but we will have to be patient, for the race to come to us, not to persist with the idea of ​​having to go back... The important thing is to arrive on Sunday with an intact car and on the lap of the leader to hope to have possibilities.

Personally, how did you feel with the car for your return?

Alright ! It's like I never left. With one or two laps, I quickly got into the rhythm. You obviously have to continue to work on certain points to which you must readjust. No problem there. Everything was quite natural.

How do you plan for the future? Which car will you be in in São Paulo? You are also 41 years old, do you still want to continue?

I still feel competitive. And as long as I am, I want to continue riding, fighting… For the moment I am not thinking about that (retirement). I go there year after year. I just had this opportunity, to be with Toyota. After Le Mans, we'll see when Mike comes back. If he's not back for São Paulo, maybe I could get another opportunity. For my part, I concentrate on everyday life, I continue to work to hope to ride again.

ALSO READ > “A day of ups and downs”: Funny Wednesday for the No. 7 Toyota

Gonzalo Forbes

In charge of promotion formulas (F2, F3, FRECA, F4...). Carried by the grace of Franco Colapinto.

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