Retaining the same drivers means Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima will drive the #7, while Anthony Davidson, Stéphane Sarrazin and Sébastien Buemi compete in the #8.
Prior to the first official test for the 2013-specification TS030 HYBRID, all drivers gave their feelings as the start of the new season, at Silverstone on 14 April, grows near.
How was your first season with TOYOTA Racing? My first season with TOYOTA Racing was fantastic; we exceeded our expectations for our debut year in WEC. But that was only the first step and we must now improve everything to become a clear number one in endurance racing. Last season was very encouraging and showed we absolutely have the potential to win Le Mans and the world championship if we get everything right. But we cannot be over confident; we still face a huge challenge and we need to perform at the highest level to achieve our goals.
What are your expectations for 2013? I expect a tough battle with Audi but I expect TOYOTA Racing to be extremely competitive. We have a chance to achieve something really significant and we are highly motivated to take that chance. I think it will be an exciting season for the fans; it’s fantastic to have two manufacturers fighting so closely at such a high performance level and I believe this will help the WEC establish itself as a home of real racing.
After a development season for the team in 2012, what are your thoughts looking ahead to 2013? It was a big challenge for TOYOTA Racing to be ready in time to race in 2012, as that was not the original plan. But the team stepped up really impressively and maybe we even surprised ourselves at how competitive we were from the beginning. We made a lot of progress and this sets us up well for 2013, when our dream will be to win Le Mans and the WEC.
How big a challenge does TOYOTA Racing face in 2013? It will not be easy to achieve our targets, we know that. But our car showed great performance last season and the designers have worked hard to find even more speed. So we have a good opportunity and we need to keep pushing through the winter to be ready to win from Silverstone onwards. Audi is a very strong competitor which we cannot under-estimate, therefore we will be giving it everything.
What are you expecting from the 2013-spec TS030 HYBRID? The TS030 HYBRID was already a really impressive car but as a racing driver you always want more of everything; more power, more grip, more speed! To succeed in motorsport you need to constantly develop, which is what we did last year by looking at all details and trying to get the maximum out of the car. From what I have seen so far, the updated car looks like another step forward so I expect to be impressed again.
How much progress did TOYOTA Racing make during 2012? When I first visited Cologne after the WEC project was announced, only the monocoque had been produced. To go from that point to winning races within less than a year was significant progress. But it was not only the car which developed; there is a great team spirit within TOYOTA Racing which has grown and strengthened since we all worked together at the first test in January 2012. This gives us the foundations for a big push in 2013.
How much did you personally develop last season? Last season was incredible for me. Throughout my career my goal has been to win an FIA world championship race, so to do this in a TOYOTA in front of our home fans at Fuji Speedway was emotional. Competing at Le Mans and experiencing this incredible race was also great, especially as I was following in my father’s footsteps. It was a really busy year for me but I was proud to end it by winning the WEC race at Fuji and also winning the Formula Nippon championship.
What are your thoughts about Le Mans and the WEC after your first experiences? I had an amazing year and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of racing at Le Mans and in WEC for the first time. The level is extremely high and the competition is very close, as we saw at Fuji when we won by only 11 seconds after six hours of racing. It’s been a new and interesting challenge to drive an LMP1 car for the first time but I’ve loved every minute of it.
How is your fitness after your Le Mans accident last season? I’m in great shape and ready to go; my fitness is as good as ever. I worked really hard to stay fit during my recovery so I was always confident of returning to peak condition. It was good to test the TS030 HYBRID again without any issues at all, and competing at the Daytona 24 Hours confirmed I’m back in shape. I must say a big thank you to my physio; her support and encouragement have been a huge help.
What are your targets for the coming season? The big target for me is to win Le Mans for the first time. This year it is a decade since I first raced there so I have a lot of experience and I feel ready to win. When you are racing for a manufacturer team, especially one like TOYOTA Racing that has won WEC races so recently, it’s easy to set a target. I’m not here to make up the numbers; I am here to win.
How much has the team and car developed since your last race together? It feels like a long time since Le Mans but I have stayed close with the team and I followed the WEC season so I know how fast the car was. During my simulator work at TMG I tested the updated aero package last year and a few weeks ago I drove the car itself again for the first time since Le Mans. The engineers have certainly been busy! Compared to a year ago, the car and the team have moved on and really benefited from the pressure of racing.
How do you rate TOYOTA Racing’s chances in 2013? I am confident the car will be competitive and I am determined to win Le Mans. It’s a magical race and one that is incredibly difficult to win; you can never be confident about the result because so many things can happen. We saw last year with Anthony’s accident that what happens is sometimes out of your hands. I am sure we have the car to challenge Audi and we will be going full throttle to win.
How much has the TS030 HYBRID developed over the past year? Even though I didn’t drive the car in the second half of last year, I saw firsthand how much progress the team made. Driving in LMP2 last season put me on the same track at the TS030 HYBRID and this gave me huge motivation to once again get behind the wheel. Finally I drove the car again in January and I immediately felt it has developed quite impressively since Le Mans. We took some positive steps in terms of aerodynamics so I can’t wait to race with it in WEC.
What are your personal targets this year? For me the clear target above everything else is to win Le Mans, no question. I am part of a serious manufacturer team and this gives me a real chance to achieve this lifetime ambition.
What did you learn in 2012 as an endurance rookie? I always wanted to race at Le Mans because it is a massive event and a huge challenge. For a driver it is challenging because you have a big speed difference between the cars, so there’s a lot of action. I got used to it pretty quickly and enjoyed myself. The other big difference is racing at night; it is very dark around the back of the track and you don’t have a lot of visibility. You have to keep your concentration and get into a rhythm.
How does the TOYOTA HYBRID System - Racing feel from a driver’s perspective? It’s a fantastic feeling when the hybrid system kicks in and gives you 300hp of extra power. I didn’t know what to expect when I drove it for the first time, although my team-mates already told me it was something special. Overall I was impressed by the performance of the TS030 HYBRID; it gave the driver confidence and was really fun to drive.
Are you looking forward to racing again in WEC? I can’t wait for the WEC season to start. It was cool to race at Le Mans last year and, with that experience, I feel even stronger and more confident. Unfortunately we didn’t reach the chequered flag but that has made me even more determined to succeed this time. The team is really strong as they showed by winning races last year so I think we have a good chance to fight at the front.