The passionate thoughts of Kamui Kobayashi, a professional racing driver of the Car #7 and TGR Team Principal
The long-awaited 2023 WEC World Endurance Championship competition begins on March 15 in Sebring (Florida, USA). Fujitsu wholeheartedly supports Toyota Motor Corporation’s stance of continuing to innovate and challenge itself to create a sustainable future in motorsports and will continue to support TOYOTA GAZOO Racing (TGR) and compete with the team this season.
Last year, the season was a very glorious year as he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the fifth consecutive year as well as the 6 Hours of Fuji, which is the race in his home country, which resulted in a double title for the fourth consecutive season. But this season’s WEC Hypercar category will also feature many new competitors. In addition, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is also a hot year, as this year marks the 100-year anniversary of the race. As a racing driver for TGR and in his second year as a team principal, what are the thoughts of Kamui Kobayashi, and what is he trying to stand up to this season?
This interview was conducted by Fujitsu Transformation News.
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Looking back on a year as a team principal
――For Kamui Kobayashi, last year’s 2022 season was the first year he was appointed not only as a racing driver but also as a “team principal”. Looking back on the year, please share us how it has been.
My best impression is that I have had a great experience. We were able to achieve the best result as a team, winning the double title for four consecutive seasons, but there were some challenges as a racing driver. As a racing driver, I have a desire to be the best, but at the same time, I have to make the right decisions as a team principal. Because of these hardships, I think I have grown as a person about 50 times as much as before, which is the result of my first year as a team principal and racing driver (laughs). In that sense, as a team principal, I take it all as a positive experience for me.
――When I interviewed you in August, you said, “Motorsport = Teamwork” (in order to win, you have to join forces with many members, from car developers to racing drivers). I believe that the team owner, Akio Toyoda, President, and CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation, also set the goal of creating a “family-like yet professional team”. What do you think about this?
I believe that a “family-like yet professional team” is one in which everyone has the desire to compete for the benefit of everyone. As the team principal, I feel that the team as a whole is already competing with such a feeling and moving toward the team’s goal. However, I believe that we will be closer to a family-like team when everyone around us starts to see us as a team where everyone is competing for everyone else, and at this stage, I cannot say that we have achieved that yet. I believe that it is essential to create a family-like team, and I am committed to building a strong team as a one team. I also try to build a strong team as a whole. Last season, I could sense a change in the team’s awareness in these areas as the races went on, so if you have the chance to come and watch a race and see TOYOTA GAZOO Racing up close, I hope you will be able to see this aspect of the team as well.
What is the most important thing to do to win a race?
――This season in the WEC, many new rivals will participate. What is the most important thing to do to win a race? Please tell us about your thoughts as a team principal and as a racing driver.
What is the most important thing to do... I believe the simplest way to say it is “everything”. Just like a piece of a puzzle, if any one piece is missing, it is impossible to win in Le Mans. However, to get all the pieces together, it is not just a matter of money, feelings, or even luck; it is the accumulation of each piece, combined with the timing, that will lead to the results. I want to build a strong team that understands the meaning of our race and accumulates what we have experienced at Le Mans. New manufacturers will be joining the race this year, and even if there are more rivals, I believe as a team principal and a racing driver, it is important to believe in what we have been doing and to continue doing it to the best of our ability, rather than being distracted by our surroundings. Even if we do something new, we will not be able to win. In other words, it is important to determine how surely, precisely, and to the fullest extent possible you can accomplish what you have accomplished. With all the experience I have gained so far, I think it is important to give it my all and drive to the best of my ability.
Fighting together with our partners
――Fujitsu is committed to working together in the world of motorsports, using technology to create a better society. Last year at Fuji, we discussed the possibility of technological collaboration. Please share with us what your expectations are from Fujitsu.
First, why is Fujitsu competing in the WEC with Toyota? I believe it is because Fujitsu is committed to competing together in tough races such as the historic Le Mans, winning them, and spreading the technologies and techniques improved in the competitions on a worldwide scale. I hope that the member of Fujitsu who will be competing with us will understand the meaning of competing at Le Mans and know that the spirit of competing at Le Mans will give birth to new technologies and techniques so that we can work together to shape the future for the benefit of the world. Thank you for your continuous support.
――Yes, we are looking forward to competing with others in the race for a sustainable world, starting with motorsports.
Lastly, please give a message to your fans for the first race at Sebring.
I believe all teams are worried about the upcoming season’s opening race in 2023. However, with our experience from our previous races, it is important for us to focus on teamwork and give our 100% effort to what we can. Of course, this is our first race, so we are eager to win, but I would like to focus on not only winning but also showing 100% of what we can do to win the race.
Kamui Kobayashi, thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule before the competition begins.
Fujitsu will continue to work to help address the issues facing society, including the realization of a carbon-neutral and other sustainable world, through the challenges we face in new fields such as motorsports.
【Kamui Kobayashi Profile】
Kamui Kobayashi is a professional racing driver from Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, who started driving a kart at the age of 9. In 2000, he won the All Japan Junior Karting Championship, and the following year, he won the All Japan Karting Championship ICA. He received a scholarship and joined the Formula Toyota Racing School (FTRS) the same year. He received a limited competition license in 2002, the year of his 15th birthday, and raced in Formula Toyota for the first time on four wheels. He began competing in European Formula races in 2004 as a TDP driver.
He won the GP2 Championship in 2008 and the GP2 Asia Championship the following year.
He began actively competing in F1 in 2010, placing third in the Japanese GP in 2012. He began competing in the Japanese Super Formula in 2015. He participated extensively in WEC in 2016 as well. With a track record, he won the pole position for the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans. He won four races during the 2019-2020 season and became the first champion.
In 2021, he won his first 24 Hours of Le Mans with the Hypercar GR010 HYBRID (No.7), and in WEC, he continued his success from the previous year by winning the championship. From 2022, he appointed as a WEC Team Principal and will continue to compete in WEC and Super Formula races this year.