Due to personal reasons, a mutual decision has been reached for him to take a break from participating in the #8 TS040 HYBRID he shares with Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi.
Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President: “Nicolas is taking a break due to his personal circumstances and the team will support him during this period. This was a decision we have taken together. Our driver line-up is close to completion for 2015 and beyond, and Nicolas remains a long-term member of our team.”
Nicolas will not be replaced in the #8, leaving Anthony and Sébastien to defend their lead in the drivers’ World Championship, which stands at 11 points after four of eight races in 2014.
In the #7 TS040 HYBRID, Kazuki Nakajima returns to his regular spot after missing the last race in Austin due to his Japanese racing programme. That reunites him with fellow two-time Fuji winner Alex Wurz, alongside Stéphane Sarrazin.
The first four races of the season saw the 1,000PS, four-wheel-drive TS040 HYBRID take two victories and start from pole position three times, whilst showing the performance to win at each event.
Going into the Fuji race, TOYOTA Racing is second in the Manufacturers’ World Championship, just 18 points behind Audi.
The team has won both its WEC races at Fuji, although last year’s victory came in monsoon conditions which saw the race red flagged after only a handful of laps behind the safety car.
Fuji is very much the home event for TOYOTA Racing, not just as its only race in Japan but also due to its location just 20km away from the Higashifuji Technical Centre where the TOYOTA HYBRID System – Racing is developed.
A return to the top step of the podium is the target, especially after frustration in Austin last time out saw victory slip away for the #8 in chaotic scenes during a heavy rain shower. The #8 went on to finish third with the #7 sixth.
Action begins on Friday with two 90-minute practice sessions (11.00 & 15.30) while Saturday sees final practice (09.30-10.30) followed by qualifying (13.55-14.20). The six-hour race starts on Sunday at 11am local time.
Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President: “It is always a pleasure to race in front of our home supporters at Fuji. This year we head to Japan not only determined to keep up our winning record there, but also to deliver a fantastic show for the fans. The rain last year was such a disappointment because it denied everyone what would have been an exciting battle, but the fans showed real spirit despite everything. This year I hope the weather is kinder and we can give them something to cheer about. We are absolutely motivated to respond after our Austin disappointment and Fuji is the perfect place to do that.”
Alex Wurz (TS040 HYBRID #7): “Fuji is our home race so it’s very exciting and we like the track. We have our special secret weapon in Fuji; Kazuki Nakajima! The track should suit our car a lot with the four-wheel-drive hybrid system and advanced aerodynamics. I love Japan and the Japanese culture so I’m really looking forward to this trip. But the focus is 100% on racing and we know we have to push very hard to improve on the result we achieved in Austin. We are determined to do that.”
Stéphane Sarrazin (TS040 HYBRID #7): “Fuji is an amazing place and I enjoy it a lot. I like the atmosphere there and as a TOYOTA driver we feel huge support. When we see how many fans come to the track, and how passionate they are about endurance racing, it is really special. I like the track as well. Obviously it is one of the classic endurance tracks so there is a lot of history there and it is also quite a varied track; it is a mix of different types of corner. Our car was really fast last year so we hope it will be again.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS040 HYBRID #7): “It’s great to be back in the TS040 HYBRID again after missing the Austin race. Even though I wasn’t with the team, I shared their frustration at what happened and I think we are all determined to make up for it in Japan. I know the Fuji track really well from my Super GT and Super Formula races and it’s one of my favourites. I’ve already won there this year in Super Formula, and of course in WEC the last two years, so I want to experience that winning feeling again this weekend. We have the car to do it.”
Anthony Davidson (TS040 HYBRID #8): “I always love going to Japan. I enjoy the country, the culture and of course, the people. I’m really looking forward to Fuji, especially as we are going there with a very competitive car. We had difficult weather last year and I felt so sorry for the fans, they are so enthusiastic and you really feel their support. They deserve to have a proper race this year. We should have won the race in Austin, so the memory of that disappointment will motivate us in Fuji where we want to win again on TOYOTA’s home turf.”
Sébastien Buemi (TS040 HYBRID #8): “I am really happy to come back to Fuji for our home race. We go to Japan leading the drivers’ World Championship which is a special thing; I don’t know if that has happened before for TOYOTA. Fuji is a fantastic circuit but more than that the atmosphere is simply great. I just hope the weather will be better than last year and we will have a proper race. We have a strong car and a strong team so we will be able to fight for the win, I am sure. After the disappointment in Austin, it’s important we get a top result.”
TOYOTA Racing at Fuji Speedway:
2012 #7: Qual. 1st; Race 1st.
2013 #7: Qual. 3rd; Race 1st. #8: Qual. 2nd; Race 27th.