Alesi calls early TOM'S SUPER GT promotion "surreal"
Giuliano Alesi has described the chance to drive for the title-winning TOM’S Toyota team in SUPER GT next year as “surreal”.
On Monday, the son of ex-Formula 1 racer Jean was named as Sho Tsuboi’s new partner aboard the #36 TOM’S Toyota GR Supra in Toyota's 2022 motorsport presentation, replacing Yuhi Sekiguchi.
The announcement came a little more than a week after Tsuboi and Sekiguchi – who moves to SARD for 2022 – secured an improbable title in a thrilling Fuji Speedway finale.
Alesi will combine his SUPER GT duties with a full season of Super Formula for TOM’S, where he will take over the retiring Kazuki Nakajima’s seat full-time.
“It was always a dream, but I never imagined it would come so soon,” Alesi told Motorsport.com of his promotion. “It’s a surreal feeling, but a big responsibility.
“I’m excited to continue with TOM’S, because at this point it’s become like a family. They gave me a second chance at my racing career in Japan, so to have grown with them and to be in both of the top categories with them is fantastic. I really want to deliver the best results for them.”
Alesi moved to Japan this season following the end of his tenure in Formula 2, contesting the Super Formula Lights series for TOM'S and finishing as runner-up, while also contesting five races in the main series when Nakajima was absent on FIA World Endurance Championship duties.
He also drove in SUPER GT's lower GT300 category for the Lexus RC F GT3 for the Team Thailand outfit, and although he and teammate Sean Walkinshaw failed to score points all season, Alesi was keen to highlight the improvement the team made over the course of the year.
“The last race, where there was no success weight, we did our best qualifying of the season [ninth], which shows how much we progressed,” he said. “It would have been good to have more time, but we were getting faster and faster.
“It really taught me how GT racing works, how the starts are, what you can see from a GT car [as opposed to a formula car], dealing with the GT500 cars lapping you, and I think all of that is going to be very useful next season.”
Alesi’s first taste of the GR Supra GT500 car is likely to come during private manufacturer testing in January, albeit with a precise venue and date still to be determined.
The Frenchman admitted that Monday’s Toyota presentation marked his first real chance to speak to his new teammate Tsuboi, with the pair communicating mostly in Japanese – a language in which Alesi, whose mother is the Japanese actress and singer Kumiko Goto, is becoming increasingly proficient.
“I’m starting to get used to working in Japanese more and more and I’m enjoying it,” he said. “It’s still not 100 percent, what I would say in English is not always quite how it comes out in Japanese, but it’s a work in progress.”
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