Tell us about Le Mans…
It’s one of those races that really grips you as a driver. Once you’ve done it you always want to come back. But it’s a real challenge and so many elements must come together to have a chance to win it. I have been close a couple of times so hopefully my big chance comes along very soon.
Obviously you already know Alex very well from your last team; what’s he like as a team-mate?
Since I signed for the team we have been in constant contact. Alex is a great guy to have in the team; I am so pleased he is here. I have been friends with him for many years, well before we were actually team-mates. I really enjoyed my time as his team-mate. He is such an experienced driver and he knows almost everything there is to know about the sport. He is a real team player and a very level-headed, technical driver; he is great on and off the circuit. He is always keen to perfect the car and the team around him. Even though we will not be driving the same car, in endurance racing you regard all of the drivers in the team as genuine team-mates so I’m looking forward to working with him again.
What about your team-mates in car #8? Let’s start with Hiroaki…
I’ve never met Hiroaki but I have been looking up his racing stats and his achievements so I know he’s a very capable driver. He has competed at the Nürburgring 24 Hours and I don’t think any endurance race comes much tougher than that! He has done some great things out in Japan in Super GT and we’ve seen in the past that guys from that series can be very, very quick. After all, two of the Le Mans winners from last year came from Super GT. I’m looking forward to meeting him and driving with him. Hopefully we will click together as team-mates and get a good result at Le Mans.
And how about Sébastien?
Due to my commentating work I have been watching a lot of Sébastien these last couple of years. Like many in the sport I was very surprised to see him become available at the end of last season. Their loss is TOYOTA’s gain. I am sure he will continue to show his speed in a closed LMP1 car as well. I am really excited to have him onboard. It was a big surprise for me when I moved from single-seaters into endurance racing – I just fell in love with it. I hope Sébastien feels the same way and I am sure he will.
TOYOTA is a Japanese company and you will be racing with a Japanese flag on the #8 car at Le Mans. How do you feel about Japan?
I absolutely love Japan. I have had quite an affiliation with Japan during my career and I’ve loved it since my first visit there. It is an amazing country with lovely people who are passionate about racing and very dedicated. I have always found it easy to work with Japanese people; it just all clicks with me and the Japanese culture. I am really pleased to be associated with Japan again so I am really excited in that respect. And don’t forget the food – it’s the best in the world!