Winner of the Sebring 12 Hours 2011, Nicolas Lapierre has discovered the Toyota LMP1 firsthand at the Paul Ricard Circuit at Le Castellet, France. The Frenchman goes back to his roots with the Toyota Racing team.
Nicolas, what was your first reaction when you took the pit lane with the Toyota LMP1?
“At the beginning, it is a little weird. Starting up is really silent. Usually launching the car is noisy, nearly brutal with the clutch. In this case it is really smooth, without any noise. And then you have the feeling to come back to reality with the internal combustion engine. That said, it is really enjoyable to drive a car with such a pleasing sound. The laps go by and you discover a new environment with many new things to learn.”
What do you think of the car? Its handling?
“The chassis is really well-developed. The car is totally different from anything I have known before. The philosophy is different: Toyota stands out. In any case, the car has a good reaction to the steering: it has a quick and efficient response.”
And what about the hybrid technology?
“The hybrid system already works really well. However, implementing this technology is no easy task. Several parameters are still to be learnt: it is a big challenge. But for now, everything works fine: we just need to get down to every detail to extract the maximum potential.”
During the last two seasons you did not get the chance to do a lot of development work. What do you think about this other side of a driver’s tasks?
“It is highly interesting as a pilot, so I am glad to have the opportunity to take part in the development work again. We have three months left before our first race, and several test sessions on schedule. We have a sound base and we will be able to refine, put the finishing touches to every aspect of this car. We are starting from a blank page so the challenge is exciting.”
How do you get along with the other drivers?
“Very well. I already knew Alex and Kazuki. I really appreciate them both as drivers. We have spent a few days together in Cologne, at TMG, and we already shared some good moments.”
Le Mans is in five months. Do you already think about it?
“Not really. To be completely honest I do not have that race in mind yet. It is the objective of the season, but I do not think about it for now. We know that no mistakes will be allowed during this race. But for the time being we focus on the development work to get the car ready for D Day.”
Some concluding words?
“I am pleased with this roll-out. It even goes beyond my expectations about the chassis. This first test session is promising, all the more so that we have noticed the car’s huge potential on several levels. I think that we will have a competitive package. Only good things come out if this test!”
What did you experience at this debut with Toyota Racing?
“I felt very good. People from different countries work for TMG: the atmosphere is quite eclectic, so the team members are all very open-minded. You can feel that they are very experienced, they have a great know-how. Working methods are highly professional, very committed. I enjoy working under these conditions. The team equips themselves with the means required to realize their ambitions. This is the ideal context to succeed!”