Have you been to Japan before?
Yes, but I’ve only been to Japan once. It was in 2009 for an event at Okoyama which was part of the Asian Le Mans Series. They ran two 500km races over two days; I qualified third and we were second in the first race, then third the next day. So I have a pretty good record in Japan! I was there for two weeks and I really enjoyed the experience, it was really cool.
What were your overall impressions of Japan?
It is so cool. I like Japanese food so much, it is one of my favourites. I am really look forward to going there. The people are very nice, very respectful – I like the culture. The Japanese approach is a bit different and they are very good at what they do, as I have discovered in our project. It is nice to work with the Japanese team members.
What were your impressions of the Japanese fans?
It seems sportscar racing is very popular in Japan. We had a lot of people there in Okoyama who knew what the championship was all about; they knew about the cars and the drivers. To be honest this was quite surprising for me and also impressive. I think this time the fans will be even more involved this year with TOYOTA coming for an FIA world championship event.
How does it feel to be a TOYOTA driver in Japan?
I am really looking forward to it. It’s a great feeling and a real privilege. The fact I am going there as a TOYOTA factory driver is very nice. Of course this is also an extra pressure because we really want to do well at our home race, but this is a positive pressure.
Do you have any other plans when you are there?
It’s not just about the racing because I also have my first chance to visit the guys at Motor Sport Division who developed our fantastic hybrid
system. It’s fantastic to have the chance to see the guys there and say thanks for all their hard work.
Have you any experience of Fuji Speedway?
I have never driven there but I visited TMG and drove Fuji on the simulator, and I have also watched a lot of onboard camera footage. It seems a very technical track with a massive straight so it will be interesting to see how our car reacts there. It’s good also that we have Kazuki with us there because he knows the track very well and he will be very helpful.