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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Kobayashi ‘joke’ triggered Nakajima’s Toyota WEC reserve return

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Three-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Nakajima retired from racing at the end of the 2021 season, taking over a task as Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe’s vice-chairman as Ryo Hirakawa took over the vacated seat within the Japanese marque’s #8 line-up within the WEC.

Regardless of having been retired for greater than a 12 months, the 38-year-old was named last month as Toyota reserve for the 2023 season, changing Components 1-bound Nyck de Vries.

Explaining the background to his call-up forward of this weekend’s Sebring season opener, Nakajima mentioned Kobayashi – who dovetails his Toyota driving duties with a group prinicpal function – instructed that he exchange de Vries, a comment Nakajima thought was made in jest initially.

“It was determined that Nyck was going to F1, and we needed to search for a brand new reserve driver,” mentioned Nakajima.

“However as a result of there at the moment are so many producers collaborating and the driving force market is booming, we knew that discovering a driver who could be a great match could be robust.

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“He [Kobayashi] was the primary to convey it up. He mentioned, ‘wouldn’t it’s positive in case you simply did it?’

“Truthfully, once I first heard that, I mentioned ‘no, no’, I assumed he was half-joking. However lots of people took the ‘joke’ critically and eventually that was what was determined.”

Perception: Why the WEC’s eagerly-anticipated new era is unmissable

TGRE technical director Pascal Vasselon declared that Nakajima “got here again at precisely the identical degree has he left” when he undertook two days of testing over the winter with the revised Toyota GR010 Hybrid.

Nakajima revealed {that a} relative lack of coaching since he hung his helmet left him feeling sore: “The driving half was positive, however afterwards my muscular tissues damage for 2 or three days!”

Kazuki Nakajima, Toyota

Picture by: Toyota Racing

Toyota topped both of Wednesday’s two practice sessions at Sebring, however Ferrari emerged because the defending champions’ nearest rivals in each outings.

Nakajima thinks each Ferrari and Cadillac, which topped a session throughout final weekend’s official Prologue take a look at, will likely be formidable rivals in Friday’s race.

“Ferrari upped the tempo quite a bit, and searching on the lengthy runs, they confirmed a efficiency that makes us suppose they’re so shut that we are able to’t low cost them,” mentioned Nakajima.

“Cadillac has additionally been persistently in direction of the highest of the occasions, so I believe it’s develop into clear that this Sebring race is prone to be a troublesome battle towards them.”

Conversely, Nakajima mentioned he noticed the Porsche 963 appeared arduous to drive on Sebring’s notoriously bumpy observe floor.

“I can’t say a lot with out having really pushed the automotive, however from the skin it appears prefer it’s struggling probably the most over the bumps,” he mentioned.



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