Nakajima: “In a way, we have less pressure”

Kazuki Nakajima comes to the 2019 Le Mans week with a good mix of excitement, but also calmness compared to last year, after Toyota Gazoo Racing finally managed to capture the win with his number 8 car. had a chat with him about this year’s race.

Do you feel more or less pressure this year, compared to last year, now that you have the Le Mans win – but have a World Championship to win?

“In a way, including me as a whole team, we have less pressure. It’s the same in the end – we HAVE to win this race, we want to win this race, just like last year. But to have experienced, to actually win the race, it’s different. So in a way it’s less pressure – but at the same time I think, you can never forget to respect the race – you can never relax, and you shouldn’t relax too much. It’s a mixed feeling.”

Do you prefer wet or dry running?

“Of course dry running! I think nobody prefer to have wet conditions in Le Mans. It’s really tricky, the visibility will be bad, and the track will be tricky. I would think that nobody likes to drive in the rain at Le Mans. Maybe we will have a wet session this afternoon, which is good for experience, but for the race, hopefully we will have a dry race.”

But personally, rain doesn’t bother you, with your Japanese racing background…?

“Well, yeah. It’s OK to drive – we can drive in the wet. But the problem is that there is a lot more risk to have unexpected incidents. As I said, visibility will be an issue, so more stress for everybody. If the rain is consistent, it’s not as bad. But if you have sudden shower with a dry tire – yeah, I don’t want to imagine it happening.”

Kazuki Nakajima
Photo: JJ Media

We experienced such a quick, random shower in 2014, just one and a half hours into the race, which resulted in the Audi Sport Team Joest #3 and AF Corse Ferrari #81 crashing out spectacularly on the Mulsanne Straight.

“Yeah, I was not in the car, so I was happy not to be in the car! But at the same time, to watch it from the outside, was really scary and stressful.”

How do you see the qualifying – the time probably won’t be as low as two years ago (when teammate Kamui Kobayashi set a new record speed on his qualifying lap), because the track will be slicker due to all the rain?

“It’s always tough – it’s always a lottery, if you have a clean lap or not. I think there is a less chance to have a clean lap, than having traffic in the lap. It’s always difficult, but we don’t really look for the record lap. We just have to be in top 2. I don’t know, maybe, the other non-hybrid cars have been quite quick in testing on their sector times, and I’m sure that they have something left in the pocket. So it can be. But if they are as quick as us, it’s not really a surprise for us. So we just have to make sure that we are in the right place – P1 and P2 – but qualifying is not the most important part of the race.”

First official practice session will run today between 16.00 and 20.00 CET.

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