After a short stint in Formula 1 with the Williams team, Kazuki Nakajima returns to the big time with Toyota's attack on the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The Japanese driver spoke to AUTOSPORT about the challenge ahead.
Q. Does it mean something to be part of Toyota's Le Mans 24 Hours comeback after moving up through the ranks with the company?
Kazuki Nakajima: Definitely. It is a great honour to be part of this team. I'm happy to be here as part of a big programme.
Q. Was Le Mans on your radar when you were growing up?
KN: When I was a kid, there was a lot of coverage of Le Mans on TV in Japan and I watched it quite a lot. When I started formula car racing, my kind of teacher was Masanori Seikya, the former Le Mans winner. Le Mans was always an aim for me, but, of course, when I was racing in Formula 1, F1 was everything After I exited F1 - I won't say finished - Le Mans was one of the other big challenges. It is one of the three biggest races in the world, so it is something special.
Q. Has your father, Satoru, offered you any advice from his experiences at Le Mans in the 1980s?
KN: Not yet, but I am sure before the race, I will have time to speak to my father about it. When he was in F1, he was a Honda driver, but when he raced at Le Mans, he was a driving for a Toyota team.
Q. Does this deal signal the end of your ambitions to return to F1?
KN: I haven't given up on going back to F1; I've always said that. This is going to be another challenge and something different.
Q. Is the big ambition to become the first Japanese driver to win Le Mans in a Japanese car?
KN: For Toyota, it is a big ambition to win Le Mans and, as a driver, it is the same for me. Now we are together, hopefully we can manage it at the same time.
Q. What timescale are you looking at to achieve that?
KN: Hopefully as soon as possible. The first year is a testing year, but at the same time, the whole team, including myself, has massive motivation. Even if it is the first year, we are there to win the race.
Q. Will you continue in Super GT this year alongside the Le Mans programme?
KN: It hasn't been announced yet, so I cannot say much. I am working on it.
Q. And Formula Nippon?
KN: We'll see.
Q. Do you think Super GT is a good preparation for racing at Le Mans?
KN: If you look at last year, two of the winning drivers at Le Mans came from Super GT [Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer]. At Le Mans, you have a lot of traffic, and that is the same in Super GT. In terms of managing the traffic, I think Super GT is good preparation.
Q. How will you find racing against Lotterer, your team-mate in Super GT last year?
KN: It will be interesting to fight against him. It will be nice to have a lot of drivers I know at Le Mans, but I don't think we can share a lot of information.