Interview with Kamui Kobayashi for the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Fuji

The 6th round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) 2023, the 6 Hours of Fuji, will be held at Fuji Speedway from September 8 to 10. Toyota Motor Corporation (hereinafter referred to as “Toyota”) has been committed to the continuous transformation and challenge to realize a sustainable future through motorsports. Fujitsu sympathizes with this philosophy and will be competing with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing (TGR) again this year.

In round 5, the 6 Hours of Monza, TGR’s GR010 HYBRID No. 7 driven by Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway, and Jose Maria Lopez won from pole position after a dead heat. The team successfully rebounded from its defeat in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley, and Ryo Hirakawa in GR010 HYBRID No. 8 finished in 6th place due to a penalty, but maintained its position at the top of the drivers’ standings. TGR currently stands at the top of both the driver and team rankings.

Under such circumstances, round 6 will be held at Fuji Speedway, Toyota’s home track. Kamui Kobayashi is the driver of No. 7 and the principal of the team. Fujitra News interviewed him to find out how he feels about the upcoming race.

Table of Contents
  1. Looking back on how he has competed with the spirit of representing Japan
  2. The Future Beyond Motorsports
  3. Message to the readers before the 6 Hours of Fuji

Looking back on how he has competed with the spirit of representing Japan

――With Fuji in September and the final race in Bahrain in November, there are only two races left in this season. TGR is currently at the top of the standings. As a principal of the team, how do you feel about the races so far?

Looking back, although we experienced some disappointment in the 24 Hours of Le Mans (hereinafter referred to as “Le Mans”), I think we were able to show strengths of TGR in the other races. We have achieved good results, and I feel positive about this. In terms of competing as a team, the fact that we did not win at Le Mans has made us work together more than ever to demonstrate our team strength. The support of our partners and many other people was also a great strength for us, and we were able to win at Monza, Ferrari’s home track. For the remaining two races, we will race as a team and hope to win the championship.

Kamui Kobayashi serves as the TGR team principal and the driver of GR010 HYBRID No. 7

――At Le Mans, a balance of performance (BOP) change was announced to TOYOTA by the organizers just before the race. In addition to this, No. 7 had an unfortunate accident, and as a result, regrettably, TOYOTA was unable to achieve its 6th consecutive victory. However, as a fan, I was strongly impressed by the way the team competed in the race without giving up until the end and won 2nd place. The cherry blossoms were also designed on the body of the GR010 HYBRID, and I imagine that there was a special feeling in the team members’ heart. What did you feel and learn from this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans?

I was reminded once again that car racing is a sport. Even though there was a performance adjustment (BOP), we challenged together as a team with the mentality of doing a fair race, and as a result, I think we were able to make some kind of a show, even though the conditions were quite tough. The result was 2nd place, but after the race, many fans and partners said to us, “You did a great job.” I think those words were enough to make our race worthwhile. We were able to race as a team and worked hard, no matter what the conditions were. We also had the support of many people, and I think that the fact that we were able to compete as a team, including these supporters, left a positive impression on TGR fans all over the world.

――In the following race, the 6 Hours of Monza, TOYOTA won from pole position to make up for the defeat at Le Mans. To win as a team for so many years requires unimaginable efforts. Especially this year, many of our rivals have also newly entered the WEC. If you name only one thing that is important for a team to win, what would it be?

If I had to pick one important thing, it would be the desire to win the race that each member of the team have. We all have to work hard, but the only proof of our efforts are the race results. A good result is the moment when we can feel that we have done a good job, so I think it is very important for each one of us to have the feeling that we have given all of our abilities in the race.

GR010 HYBRID with cherry blossom design

The Future Beyond Motorsports

――The Automobile Club de l'Ouest de France (ACO) has announced that hydrogen-engine vehicles will be allowed to compete in Le Mans from 2026. At the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Toyota unveiled the GR H2 Racing Concept, a concept car for hydrogen engine vehicles with a view to future participation in the race. Toyota is always thinking about making better cars and a brighter future with motorsports as a starting point. As a team principal, what are your thoughts on the future beyond motorsports?

I don’t think there is one answer to that question. One of our goals is to make cars safer and more fun through motorsports. While motorsports are entertainment, I think there is another side to the challenge, where a company with technology takes on the challenge of achieving carbon neutrality and offering entertainment at the same time. I think there is a brighter future for motorsports, not only in making better cars, but also in achieving carbon neutrality.

――Fujitsu also hopes to cooperate with TGR in terms of technology to help realize a better society beyond motorsports. Not only that, but we would also like to contribute to improving fan engagement and other aspects of motorsports that will allow fans to enjoy motorsports more. What are your expectations for Fujitsu in this aspect?

I would like Fujitsu to create technologies to make things even more efficient and better, as well as things that make motorsports more enjoyable. I see a lot of potential for collaboration between Fujitsu technology and motorsports. I believe that this collaboration will lead to the creation of useful cars. I hope we can continue to work together in various ways to create the future, such as enabling many people to experience the joy of racing.

――Thank you very much. We at Fujitsu, as an official sponsor of TGR, would like to enjoy creating a better future together.

Message to the readers before the 6 Hours of Fuji

――Finally, please give us a message to your fans ahead of the 6 Hours of Fuji.

The WEC 6 Hours at Fuji Speedway is our hometown race. It is a very special race for us. We put the cherry blossom design on the GR010 HYBRID from the Le Mans race. As a representative racer of Japan, I would like to challenge with Fujitsu to win our home race in Fuji. I would like to make this race a place where fans can share in the excitement of Japanese industry and technology.

It is rare to have a race where manufacturers from so many countries come to Japan to compete. I would like to work with Fujitsu to win this race, and at the same time, I would like to make motorsports more popular in Japan. Another goal is to spread the culture of Japanese motorsports and endurance racing to the rest of the world.

At the circuit, visitors will be able to enjoy an extraordinary experience just by watching the many cars, including the GR010 HYBRID and other hypercars, running on the track. The event square will also have exhibits of past cars and various other contents, and you can even stay overnight at a campsite and watch the race while barbequing. I would like to encourage everyone at Fujitsu to come out and enjoy the atmosphere of the race. I hope you will watch the race and support TOYOTA GAZOO Racing!

――Thank you very much for taking this interview just before the 6 Hours of Fuji. Fujitsu will also do its best to support you.

Fujitsu is committed to solving society’s issues, including the realization of a carbon neutrality and sustainable world through challenges in new fields, including motorsports.