Since first winning the iconic twice-round-the clock enduro, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans every year. In 2022 the Cologne-based squad will be aiming to secure the title for the fifth time and its second in the Hyper class.
For the 90th running of the French classic, Toyota return to La Circuit de la Sarthe with the #7 and #8 GR010 Hybrids. The #7 entry will be piloted by 2021 winners Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José Maria Lopez while the #8 car will see Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa share the driving duties.
2022 will be the first year at Le Mans that three-time winner Kazuki Nakajima will be working in his new role as Vice Chairman of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Europe. Team Principal Kamui Kobayshi will be working in his new dual role, combining management with driving the #7 car.
35-year-old Kobayashi is no stranger to pressure, having begun his racing career at the age of nine in 1996. Born in Amagaski, near Kobe, Kobayashi finished third in his first season of karting and began his relationship with Toyota in 2004 when he signed for the driver academy. He spent three years as a test driver for the company’s Formula 1 team before being promoted to a race seat in 2009.
After Toyota’s withdrawal from F1 in at the end of 2009, Kobayashi went on to drive for Sauber and Caterham before turning his attention to the FIA World Endurance Championship full-time in 2016.
Kobayashi is confident that the team is well-prepared for its annual French adventure in the Pays de Loire.
“Le Mans is the big target for the whole team and we have prepared intensively to be ready for the challenge,” said Kamui Kobayashi. “Even though we won the race for the past four years, there are always difficulties and situations where we need to solve problems. That happened in the race last year but, thanks to the efforts of the team and drivers we found a solution and finally the #7 car won the race.
“Mike, José, me and the whole #7 crew had waited a long time for that moment, so it was very special, particularly because the #8 crew made it a one-two. This season we have also had some difficulties and it was a pity for the #8 to retire in Spa. The engineers looked in detail at the issue and we believe it will not happen again.
“So I am sure we are ready for Le Mans; we go there with confidence and optimism. I am sure we will be part of an exciting race for the fans.”
Track action at the Circuit de la Sarthe gets under way on Sunday June 5 with the Test Day.