Driver quotes looking to Fuji
Thoughts ahead of taking to the track at Fuji International Speedway
A collection of quotes from teams and drivers heading into the fifth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the 6 Hours of Fuji.
Toyota Gazoo Racing
Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car #7):
“Missing out on the win at Monza was disappointing but we didn’t have the pace; we need to be stronger in Fuji. Of course, our target as a team is to retain both World Championships, therefore we want to win this weekend. Our competition is strong and it will be another challenging race, but that helps us to become better as a team. We will do our very best to be back in the middle of the podium in front of our home fans.”
Mike Conway (Driver, car #7):
“It feels like a long time since our last race at Monza but we have regrouped and will come back refreshed for the last two races. It has not been the best season on our side of the garage so we are all pushing to have a clean race and fight at the front in Fuji. It’s our home race and the team has been successful there in the past, so obviously we want to keep that winning run going. It will not be easy, as we saw in Monza, because the competition in Hypercar just gets tougher, and the #8 car is always strong. But we will push hard to have a good race for our home fans.”
José María López (Driver, car #7):
“I am happy to be going back to Japan. It is a great place to race and I love being around the Japanese fans, who are so passionate about motorsport. It is more special to go there as part of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing because it is our home event and we can meet many colleagues who are not able to visit the races in Europe. Fuji is a great circuit and I have some nice memories of racing there. The long straight should suit our car, which has good top speed, and I think we can be strong this weekend.”
Sébastien Buemi (Driver, car #8):
“Fuji is a special race for us and I have been fortunate enough to win there three times, so it is a good circuit for me. Obviously it is important for the team to have a strong race at Fuji because it is our home race, and the first time for WEC to be there since 2019. It will not be easy and the competition will be tough as it has been all season, so we need to find the right set-up and execute a clean race.”
Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8):
“It’s exciting to finally go back to Fuji after such a long gap since we won there in 2019. The fans always create such a unique atmosphere, particularly as it is the home event for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, and we feel very welcome there. Of course, Fuji is famous for the long start-finish straight and it will be an awesome feeling to drive our GR010 HYBRID flat-out for 1.5km past our home fans. It’s getting to the business end of the season and we are only 10 points behind in the drivers’ championship, so our target is to close that gap, hopefully with a win.”
Ryo Hirakawa (Driver, car #8):
“This will be my first home race in WEC so I am really looking forward to racing in front of our Japanese fans at Fuji. I have raced very often at Fuji in Super GT, Super Formula and my junior racing, so I know it better than any other circuit in WEC. I have had many strong races there and I already won a race there this season, so I feel well prepared for this weekend.”
#36 Alpine Elf Team
“We are all focused on Fuji, during the summer we prepared ourselves to keep the level. We are focused on this second part of the season. Then concretely, to talk about the performance: it's a bit early, we are waiting for the BoP. On the other hand, this year we were able to show that we were performing well, that we could win races. Within the team, everyone worked hard to get a reliable, high-performance car.
Fuji is a circuit that I like, I have good memories of this particular atmosphere. I'm looking forward to coming back in the second half of the season. And it's always a pleasure to go to Japan: the people there always welcome you with a smile.”
“I admit that the break is always too long, I can't wait to be here in Fuji. After our good performances in Monza, we are all eager to get back on track. The battle was quite intense, it was fun to experience. We hope it will be like that until the end of the season.
Concerning the circuit, obviously the main straight line will not be to our advantage compared to the Toyotas. On the other hand, the sector 3 which is more sinuous, it is where we will compete with them. We have never driven at Fuji with this car, so we will know as soon as the first free practice session if we have our chances. What's important for us is to continue making good races, as we did this year: a good strategy, good stints between the drivers.
There are still two very important races to go, and it's up to us to continue in the same vein as we are doing now. As far as I'm concerned, I was able to recharge my batteries and this break was good.”
Philippe Sinault, Team Principal Alpine Elf Endurance Team
"We are heading to Fuji in good shape, much better than we thought at the beginning of the year. We are extremely motivated and excited to return to Fuji and meet again our many Japanese fans there. Fuji is a big name in international motorsport and we have fond memories of it, even though, this year, we are challenging our main rivals on their home turf. The circuit has special characteristics, including a very long straight, which requires a compromise between top speed and aerodynamic load. Motricity on the exit of tight corners and tyre wear are also important issues, especially if it rains. We will have to be quick to respond and attentive to what is going on to remain proactive when it comes to race developments and incidents. However, we are sure the qualities of our car will allow us to excel, and we intend to give it everything we have. The goal is to remain in contention for the title on merit before the season-finale, and this will require a good result, so at least a podium result."
Jean-Éric Vergne (#93 car, with Paul di Resta and Mikkel Jensen)
“Monza could have gone better for us, but that was entirely to be expected at such an early stage of an ambitious project like this. Our car [#93] ran into problems in the race that led to our retirement. During the run that I completed in free practice, though, we were close to the Toyota in terms of pure pace, which proves that we are in the right ballpark with this non-conventional car. I’m completely convinced about that. Our first race was another significant milestone on this exciting journey and now, for Fuji, the goalposts shift again. But that’s what keeps the adrenalin flowing!”
Gustavo Menezes (#94 car, with Loïc Duval and James Rossiter)
“We took a lot of confidence from our first race in Italy, because it clearly showed that this car has potential. Of course there is still much we need to improve, but we are all fully motivated for the challenge that lies ahead. At Monza, I learnt a great deal personally as a driver, too. I got to see how the Peugeot 9X8 behaves in traffic and up against other Hypercars. After running solo throughout testing, it marked a fresh step in assessing how we stacked up in that respect. At Fuji, the strategy remains the same: we will focus on our own car, our own team and our own work – and then see where we end up...”
#64 Corvette Racing
It’s a super cool track. It’s really fast in a lot of places. It’s unique in some ways in that there are a lot of long-duration corners there. Car balance and tire life will be super important. There are things we can do on the setup side to help us put all of those things together. The sim also gives us a chance to take some really big swings at it and experiments so to speak with setup to find something with the car that we haven’t tried before. While it’s nice for me to be able to drive these tracks on the sim beforehand, I feel like it’s definitely a big help to go to these tracks and get in the car and get going right away. It’s for sure speeding up the learning process for me and but it’s also helping us quite a bit on car setup as well. I think we’re pretty happy with our simulator program and the benefits that it offers us.”
Fuji is an F1-type of circuit where the surface is pretty smooth. It’s on quite a flat area. But it’s a track where it’s difficult to know the best way to go about setup philosophy. There’s this huge straight where you need obviously straight-line speed, but there are a couple other high-downforce corners. Turn Three there is a long right that is one of the fastest and most committed sections of racetrack anywhere in the world. Of course, you want to trim your car out to be fast on the straight, but you can’t afford to give up downforce in these areas. It lends itself to good racing because there is a slipstream effect if you can stay close to the cars in front of you through the last sector and down the start/finish straight. There’s also the weather aspect. Fuji in September can see very changeable conditions and the rain can come in quickly. I’ve only been there twice but it’s the track where I have the least level of experience personally. It will be one of our toughest challenges as a team, I expect, being new to the circuit for the first time.”
#91 Porsche GT Team
“The last time we were in Japan was 2019 – so it’s high time that we finally race in front of the amazing fans in Fuji. With the championship entering a very heated phase, the race will be enormously important."
#9 Prema Orlen Team
Rene Rosin - Team Principal Prema Orlen Team
"Our endurance programme is taking us to some amazing new places this year, and stepping foot in Japan is another incredible opportunity. The build up had its challenges with moving cars, components and people so far across the globe, but we are fully prepared and ready to this exciting new adventure. In addition, the result we achieved in Barcelona will also act as a catalyst and a motivator to carry the momentum into Fuji."
I’m really happy to be in Fuji as It's first time for myself in Japan and in Fuji. I really look forward to discovering this beautiful track. Already Fuji looks awesome. We've been very competitive all rounds this year but didn't have a victory yet. I hope this weekend will be or first possibility to make it happen and keep the fight for the championship alive. And I think all the team is very excited for it and I can't wait for the weekend to start.
#22 United Autosports USA
“It's been a long wait since the last race in Monza so going to Japan will be a nice change to the European circuits we visit. The idea is to aim for the win, we have a team and a car capable of it but we've been a bit unlucky this year. We will keep persisting and hopefully break the spell in Fuji."
"I am really excited to be going back to Fuji, it is one of my favourite circuits. I have raced there three times; twice in the Asian Le Mans Series and most recently in the 2019 WEC. It's been a track where I've had mixed success, I've won there in the Asian LMS, secured pole there but we also struggled there last time round. I think that's why I'm so excited to be heading back because I think we can build on what we have learnt in the last few years and perfect what went wrong in 2019. Our aim is to win the last two races of the season, especially given how the year has panned out so it's all or nothing."
“I’m excited to be heading to Japan for the first time and am glad to be getting back on track after two months away. We have had an awful year so far. We would love to end this year with some good results. I feel confident in our teams pace though, and the most important thing for me is to learn the track as quickly as possible.”
#23 United Autosports USA Car 23:
"Fuji is a really cool place with an awesome track. I'm looking forward to returning to Japan, a country I have loved visiting and racing in. The car is second with two rounds to go and two big opportunities to outscore JOTA to take the championship lead."
"It's great to be going back to Japan, one of my favourite countries in the world. I raced Japanese F3 there so have lots of fond memories. It's been a long WEC break so it's great to be heading to another race. We were a little bit unfortunate at Monza so we're going to Fuji aiming to put a solid weekend together. We should be fighting for a podium, if not the win. Second in the championship but in some respects we have nothing to lose, as the gap to first is quite big, but still attainable. I have no doubt that my two teammates will be well prepared and so it falls to us as a team to execute a perfect weekend."
“Really looking forward to Fuji, and my first trip to Japan. I’ve heard really good things and I’m excited to experience the atmosphere for myself. While we haven’t had the strongest results in the last handful of events, we’ve bounced back in each of these races from unlikely setbacks. I’m confident that the 23 crew is more motivated than ever to fight for another win. With Oliver and Alex, I’m sure the goal is obtainable.”
Richard Dean, United Autosports USA Team Principal
“It's great that Japan has made a reappearance on the WEC calendar as it's a great country with amazing people. Fuji Speedway is a great circuit to be returning to and after a third place finish last time round in 2019, we are looking to have another successful weekend for both cars here."
Team WRT Principal Vincent Vosse:
“It’s a long journey from Europe but it is always nice to be in Japan, a country with a great motorsport culture, and at a historic and beautiful track like Fuji. We have never raced there in LMP2, so we will have a lot to discover and although we have prepared well, we will not be in the same position as competitors who have direct experience. This gives us extra motivation to do well. It is a very important race for us because we will have to clinch a very strong result if we want to stay in the race for the titles. So far, we had two wins at Spa and Monza and a double podium at Sebring, but we missed the heavy points given by Le Mans, so the situation is very simple: we have to go for it and we can’t afford any mistake.”
“It’s my first time at Fuji and actually in Japan. In 2019 I missed the DTM’s Dream Race here because of a clash with Formula E, so I really look forward to race here. The weather looks interesting, there could be some rain. Unfortunately, we lost points at Monza because of a technical issue. We will try to do everything we can to qualify well and be up front, and hopefully we will be very competitive, and we’ll see what happens with respect to other competitors.”
“I had some good time off at home with family and friends, but finally, it’s time to get racing again and hopefully, get back to our winning ways. The last races have been tough on us, we scored no points, so I hope that from this one on, we can finish the season the way we started.”
“I’m very happy and excited to be here and part of the WEC programme, and I will do my best to replace René effectively. I have raced in Fuji a few years ago, it’s a cool place and an exciting track. We are in an all-in mode, as we need a strong result and we’ll give everything to get a win.”
#34 Inter Europol Competition
“I’m delighted to be back in Fuji, a place with a great fan base and culture in endurance motorsport. It’s also an interesting and technical track which makes it a pleasure to race on. As a team, we have taken an upturn in form, and we look to continue that Monza pace to a podium here in Japan this weekend.”
“Monza was a good event and result for us and I’m looking forward to racing again in WEC. Fuji is a new track to me, and I have heard that it’s amazing and I am a big fan of Japan anyway. So, I expect we will build on the Monza momentum, the way we worked as a team and capitalise on the potential that we have, as we aim for the podium.”
“It’s great to be here in Japan and I am looking forward to getting on track as it is a great circuit. We had a good run to P4 last time at Monza, so we are aiming to equal or better that in this last but one round of the championship.”
#41 RealTeam by WRT
“I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel after such a long summer break. Coming off a win in Monza, I know that the team is extremely motivated to try to do the same here at Fuji. I have never raced in this track but I’m really excited to get going again and chase for another strong result.”
“It’s exciting to be at a new circuit, in a new country. It reminds me of the privilege to be a driver and get to see the world, different places you normally wouldn’t go to, and different cultures. I’m excited to go around and find out what it’s like to do the things you do at home but in a different setting, with new unpredictable challenges. I look forward to the event, especially coming back from a win and climbing the championship order a little bit. I also won in Barcelona in ELMS, so I feel very positive. I arrived early to get the jet lag away and my body and mind are ready and sharp for when the race starts and hopefully, we have a great time and another win. That’s the goal.”
“After a successful weekend at Monza and our first win, we are in the mix for the championship fight. We need another strong weekend in Fuji to put pressure on our opponents before the last round in Bahrain. Fuji is a cool track, weather can be tricky out there. We will push hard and give our best as always.”
#85 Iron Dames
“I am super excited to be for the first time racing in Fuji. Track looks pretty different compared to what we are used to in Europe which is only gonna be a good challenge. Of course we will try to repeat our good weekend in Monza, but we also know that the competition here will be very strong. It looks like the weather will play a big role, but we know that we are all fast in both wet and dry, so that only motivates us more.
So far we have always succeeded and being strong while discovering new adventures - can exactly feel the same positive vibes for Fuji.
I’m looking forward to discover this new track. It’s definitely gonna be a challenge with the changing conditions we are expecting but I feel that we are ready for it. Like always, we will work hard, stay focus and give our best. Let’s hope we can be strong here as well!