Kamui Kobayashi: “Our car was not the fastest this week but the team performed so well.”

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Credit: Toyota Gazoo Racing

Team principal and driver of the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing car, Kamui Kobayashi has paid tribute to the superb effort that was put in by the whole team to secure victory in the Hypercar class at the 6 Hours of Imola. After a tough race full of twists and turns, the #7 car triumphed in the second round of the 2024 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), propelling the drivers to 2nd in the championship and Toyota to second in the manufacturers’ championship.

It was a very tough race and to win here is absolutely phenomenal. Our car was not the fastest this week but the team performed so well” Kobayashi admitted. He paid tribute to his fellow drivers, Mike Conway and Nyck de Vries for getting them into contention from qualifying in 6th. “There was big pressure from the start of my stint; I was in the lead on slick tyres in the rain. We made the right call to switch tyres and build a gap, then we kept good pace on the wet tyres.

The winning #7 Toyota pushed all the way by the 2nd place #6 Porsche Penske Motorsport. Credit: Toyota Gazoo Racing

Not only did the rain cause strategy headaches, so too did the fuel levels come the final stages of the race. “We were not sure about fuel so we started to save energy and I gave everything, it was very tough” explained Kobayashi. He was being hunted down by the very rapid #6 Porsche Penske Motorsport car while trying to save fuel simultaneously. Ever humble, Kobayashi played down his part in the victory, saying “the team did a great effort in terms of strategy and that gave us the chance to fight for the win. Thanks to the everyone for their fantastic work here.”

Kobayashi gets ready for his race winning stint. Credit: Julien Delfosse / DPPI

Mike Conway, driver of the #7 car for the opening stint of the race, was quick to praise his teammate. “It was really tense all the way to the end” the British driver said. “Kamui did a great job at the end to stay ahead whilst saving energy. As always the pressure doesn’t affect him; I think my heart rate in the garage was higher than his in the car!

Reflecting on his own performance, Conway said “at the start I stayed out of trouble and tried to move forwards. I had a lot of fun and I enjoyed my first time racing here.” He also praised the team, saying “the crew did a great job in the pits and the strategy couldn’t have been any better. Congratulations to the whole team and everyone at Toyota.

Toyota Gazoo Racing executed a flawless strategy. Credit: Javier Jimenez / DPPI

For a man who is in his debut WEC season, Nyck de Vries is enjoying a remarkable season so far. One of this highlights of the race in Imola was his astonishing overtake to pass Miguel Molina in his Ferrari AF Corse car for second place. The Dutchman perfectly executed a restart after a period of full course yellow flags, catching the Ferrari napping and pulling off an excellent move on the run down to Rivazza.

It’s great to be back on the top step of the podium” de Vries enthused. “I am very happy and proud to share the car with Kamui and Mike, so I really want to thank them and the whole team for their outstanding job. The performance was phenomenal, all the strategy calls were correct, every stint was strong, and no one put a foot wrong. They executed the race perfectly and I think we really deserve this victory.”

The sparks fly as the #7 Toyota wins in Imola. Credit: Javier Jimenez / DPPI

Toyota’s self-confessed aim before Imola was to get back on the podium. Now that they’ve managed to do that in quite some style, especially with a car that they don’t believe was the fastest on track, the reigning champions are back on track to fight for the title.

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