Ex-Formula 1 driver Heikki Kovalainen says he is amazed by the way his Sard Super GT team has emerged as the championship leader after last weekend's Thailand round.
Lexus Team Sard struggled for pace at the start of the year, with Kovalainen and teammate Kamui Kobayashi finishing a distant 12th in the season opener at Okayama.
However, a change of engineers, coupled with a better understanding of issues that plagued its early campaign, allowed Kovalainen and Kobayashi to score Lexus’s first win of 2018 at Buriram.
The result propelled Kovalainen to the top of the standings, three points clear of Team Kunimitsu Honda pairing Jenson Button and Naoki Yamamoto.
“We still need to improve but we’ve improved a lot. Our car was not working in the winter and Okayama even it was still not working,” Kovalainen, who won the 2016 Super GT title with Kohei Hirate, told Motorsport.com.
“But we’ve been working, the more we understand some reason and we’ve been improving and it’s amazing turnaround. The team has changed from being last to being first. It’s amazing.
“Yeah, I’m happy about this. Of course we still need to improve and Fuji maybe will be tough race for us. But we understand this situation better now.
“I think we are in the fight we are leading the championship. It doesn’t mean anything yet, it’s too early. But we are in the fight and that’s the main thing.”
Between Okayama and Buriram, Kovalainen secured a surprise podium finish at Fuji with Kobayashi’s stand-in Sho Tsuboi, but was also responsible for crashing out from Suzuka.
“We’ve had a rollercoaster start to the season,” he said in the post-race press conference. “Disaster in Okayama, Fuji was a good race, then another disaster in Suzuka where I made a mistake. So we needed a good result from here.
“We have good position of course. Now we need to manage the situation. We are working on it.
"We have a good package. the car’s been working well. The team is doing an excellent job. And we’ve got everything there. We have all the ingredients in place."
Interview by Tomohiro Yoshita