Winner in 2012 of the Six Hours of Fuji race, Kazuki Nakajima was keen to be back in the TOYOTA Racing team to test the updated TS030 HYBRID on track. Highly motivated by his win of the past season, the Japanese driver is ready to face new challenges for 2013. We met him at the Paul Ricard endurance test session.
How did you approach these new test sessions?
“It has been a long time since Fuji and I was a little bit anxious about getting back the feeling with the car but it was quite easy to drive and I quickly felt comfortable. But even if during the first day of the test I did only four laps, I really felt a big difference on driving the updated TS030 HYBRID. It was not enough to get back a full feeling but enough to see something had changed. Last year, as a driver, we sometimes had to fight a bit with the car but it is not the case anymore. We are still working on set-ups, trying to find the best balance but nothing to see with last year. The most important now is not to have any major problem. We are able to drive long runs and it’s a big advantage to work properly. It’s also very nice to work with the other five drivers of the team, we have more information to share for the car development and we can get more benefits from that. We are able to improve and to react faster.”
2013 will be another long and tough season for you?
“That’s true. The 2013 season will be long, especially for me. Apart from the endurance programme, I will race the Super GT championship and Super Formula in Japan. I will have to manage my schedule well! It will be a tough season but I’m really looking forward because based on last year’s experience, I think we are ready to challenge for big things.”
Do you think that participating in the WEC season from the first race will help the team?
“Definitely yes, because we will have two races before Le Mans. In Le Mans you never know what could happen and I think having two WEC races before will give us an advantage to prepare for this big challenge in the best conditions. For us it will certainly help as we have strong rivals.”
The high point of the coming season will be the Le Mans 24 Hour race. In which state of mind are you four months before the start?
“Le Mans remains THE big event of the season. Last year it was difficult to say “we want to win the race”. We did not have enough time to be well prepared for a 24-hour race, but this year I believe it’s different. Further to the results we got at the end of the past season, everybody is more motivated and shares the dream to win at Le Mans. It’s great to have such a challenge. It will be only my second participation in that race as a driver but I really enjoyed the atmosphere. The race was intense but it’s a very good sensation for a driver so I found out how important it is to be in Le Mans. This first experience gave me much more motivation and I feel more confident for next months. Everything is going well so far.”