Interview with Le Mans Rookie of the Year – Kazuki Nakajima
We’re just a few hours away from the big event: the 80th 24 Hours of Le Mans. Coming up are two interviews with the drivers of our #7 Toyota TS030 HYBRID racer. First up is Kazuki Nakajima who just received the ACO “Rookie of the Year” award at Friday’s really wet and cold Drivers’ Parade in the city centre of Le Mans in front of thousands of fans. You can check out the interview after the break.
Note: the interview took place on Friday, June 15 before the Drivers’ Parade, so “yesterday” refers to Thursday
During the press conference, your team members spoke about how young the team really is. Having been working together for only a few months, is the team working well together?
It’s indeed a young team, especially if you compare to our competitors like Audi. We also have an interesting combination of different countries and nationalities in the team. Toyota’s Powertrain Division based in Japan, Toyota Motorsport GmbH in Germany and Oreca in France. It’s the same for the driver line-up. In our #7 car, we have Nicolas from France, Alex from Austria and me from Japan. Even though we’ve only worked together for half a year, the team is really working together as one. If you consider that the car was only designed about a year ago, our good performance in qualifying is an even greater achievement.
What do you think about yesterday’s qualifying session?
In my final qualifying lap, I was really pushing hard and going fast but the lap was ruined because of traffic so I’m a little bit disappointed. But, still, it’s good to see Anthony in P3 and beating some of the Audi’s. Our #7 car is also in front of an Audi. Qualifying went well and it was nice to see that the whole team was really happy with the result.
What’s the team’s goal for the Le Mans race?
Our main target is to finish the race. We have good potential but you never know what happens during the race…
Speaking about the Drivers’ Parade experience and his “Rookie of the Year” award on Friday, Kazuki commented: “The parade is an amazing event. The streets were lined with thousands of fans who route around the narrow streets of the old city of Le Mans despite the rain pouring down. It was great to receive such a warm welcome from the crowd. As it is my first time I did not know what to expect and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. Alex, Nico and I sat in an old-timer car and there were several stops where we gave interviews. In-between we spoke to fans and signed all kinds of items. Right at the beginning of the event I was presented with the ACO Rookie of the Year award, which actually is a really big trophy. What a lovely surprise. I am very happy to have been awarded this. For me it is something to prove myself and also a nice souvenir for the team.”