I think my task is to set up the car,
and raise the limits of what the car can do.
- Q.What does it mean for you to drive the NEW GR Supra in the Nürburgring 24 hours race?
- When the NEW GR Supra was released and I was selected to compete in the Nürburgring 24 hours race, I put a lot of thought into this. The car was firmly developed in the process of making Supra as racing car. This time in particular, we had to create a GT4 category car from almost normal conditions. I think my task is to set up the car, and raise the limits of what the car can do.
- Q.The Nürburgring 24 hours race is said to be an extremely harsh race. Now that you have been able to actually drive it a little bit, what did you feel was harsh about the race?
- This is the first time for me to do 24 hours on this course but I have competed in many 24 hours races within Japan. Driving for 24 hours is very harsh, even on the flat surfaces of courses in Japan. The racing cars are put under harsh conditions, as well are the drivers and mechanics. The Nürburgring 24 hours race, which is said the be “the world’s harshest course”, puts an incredible amount of stress on the cars. Through this, we can really feel the meaning of TOYOTA’s motto, “The road trains the car”. After racing the 24 hours race, we left with the impression that all members of the team including the cars, drivers, and mechanics can step on next stage.
- Q.Does that mean Nürburgring is clearly different from other circuits?
- Yes, there is nowhere in the Japan circuits where cars can “jump”. All four tires off the ground, that would be impossible (lol). If this were to happen, in general the car would be destroyed, so the course has been modified so that cars won’t “jump” (lol).
At the Nürburgring, it’s a very harsh. There are areas where the car can’t make the turn unless you ride on the curb.
From the environment of a course like this, the stress a car experiences are incredibly high. The driver themselves as well have to determine how much to jump in a situation where they need to jump. They must gauge the required speed while creating an image of the approaching roads. And on top of that, they have to finish in a timely manner. Last but not least, they also have to ensure that the car is not destroyed of course. I think these difficulties are all very common at Nürburgring.
I have customer perspective and
I think I am closest to the user among other drivers and
I have customer perspective.
- Q.I would like to ask you more about Supra. Considering that Supra has been restored this time around, do you have any memories of the old Supra? How do you personally feel in regards to the NEW GR Supra?
- To be honest, I rarely perform as a race driver. If you were to attempt to become a pro driver, you need to participate in kart racing and have some experience in formula races. Then contracted with various manufacturers, finally you will be able to race in the Nürburgring. In the case for myself, I am a “street car driver”. Honestly, I am a driver like who came from the “Initial D”. So I like cars, not karts. My point is, I like “street cars”.
I started driving from Litre Light Supra 70 then Supra 80. Ever since I was a young boy I was extremely excited by “street cars” and for me, the name Supra was not just a Japanese sports car, but also the representative sports car for TOYOTA.
In my case, I am “street car driver”, so I customized and drove it. Its my favorite car. I am planning to customize the 90 as I did with the 70 and 80, remodeling it for myself and taking it out to drive. I have customer perspective andI think I am closest to the user among other drivers and I have customer perspective.
- Q.Joining the Nürburgring 24 hours race carries a strong meaning of car development. How do you want to develop the Supra 90 as a “street car driver”?
- In pursuit of speed alone, various parts of the car will be made sharper. Of course, for a 24 hours race, 4 drivers will be tasked to drive the car, and it is necessary for us to firmly complete the 24 hour drive. If we can’t reach the goal, we won’t be allowed to stand in the rankings. If it is done in that way, I think we couldn’t finish proper developing test. As for me, I imagine to make the vehicle as “round, not sharp”. In other words, drivers are able to communicate with the car. For example, the car should be set up in a way that it can clearly tell the driver things like “I can’t do that now” or “I can do more”.
- Q.What are the points of interest for people while watching the Nürburgring 24 Hours Race? Are there any things you want viewers to look out for in particular?
First of all, most characteristic aspect of the NEW GR Supra is how cool it is. I really hope that people can look at a parked NEW GR Supra and think, “wow, what a cool car. I also want to drive it”.
Secondly, since there are people who will come to Nürburgring and see the car, I hope they experience things like the cornering, sounds, smells and etc of the car. However, for people watching on TV, it might be difficult for them to have this experience but I hope they can pay attention to how other similar category cars like BMW or Porsche roll down the street and accelerate, also support us as we move up the ranks.
- Q.What kind of location Nürburgring will be for Supra this time?
- There is a category called GT4. It’s our duty to push the Supra closer to the GT4 category and release it to the world as a consumer race car in the future. We are currently navigating a number of problems while developing the car. This is the road that must be taken when you release a car to the public. So of course, having good results at the 24 hours race is the best, at the same time when trouble occurs, you have to respond to it. This is very important for us to improve the car. Through the race, we get rid of imperfections and the car begins to evolve. When problems cease to exist and deliver to customers, I hope they think it is a good car. This is what the 24 hours race does for the cars.
Supra is the image of
“TOYOTA’s pure sports car”.
- Q.If you were to describe Supra in one phrase, what kind of car would you say it is?
- A sports car from TOYOTA. I felt it has special meaning for TOYOTA. Of course the 86 is also a sports car. In the past it was called the AE86. I’ve also driven this car but still, the Supra is the top car. Supra is the image of “TOYOTA’s pure sports car”. The 80 is a little heavy, and is seen as a little big. But with its single titanium bolt in the accelerator pedal, you can really feel the commitment from TOYOTA saying “wow, they’ve even used titanium here”. Even with the 80 you can feel the commitment, and the expectation that the 90 will push it one step further exists even as a commercial vehicle.
- Q.I’m sure you got impression when you drive consumer model and you have imagined how it will evolve from here on out. What expectations do you have for the car?
- The thing I realized immediately upon driving the car was the incredibly high rigidity of the body and the comfortability driving it. By itself, the car runs on 340 horsepower, a power which isn’t so surprising. But the car let you use all of its power with the space around your feet and the solid rigidity of its body. This is the very first impression the car left on me.
- Q.What do you like about the NEW GR Supra? What about the 70 and 80?
The 70 had an overwhelming amount of power. Especially had power with the car by change the boost a little or replacing the computer. Of course, its novel styling was also so cool but in the end of the day, it’s overwhelming power was the key point.
With the 80, you felt as if you were sitting in the cockpit of an airplane when you sat down in the driver's seat. All of the meters and gauges faced you and its shape made it so nothing was visible from the passenger seat. You felt like you were in a sports car. That’s the image I had.
And then there’s the 90. I got the impression that it kept the good parts about the 70 and 80, while incorporating aspects the cars lacked. I felt it became modern style since first launch in 17 years ago.
- Q.What do you think when you look at the car for the first time?
- Originally the FT1 was displayed at auto salons and I thought it was extremely cool. This time, I thought it would be flatter but I was left with the impression that it was actually taller (lol). However, it had the same image as the original so I think its a cool car when they see it for the first time. I thought I would buy one immediately.
- Q.Is there any difference between the 70 and 80 in how the car feels to drive?
If you drive the 70 now, it doesn’t feel very specialized for cornering. But it has a “grand touring” like element that says “this is how you run a straight line as fast as possible”. It doesn’t really have the image of doing light cornering.
With the 80, it really looks like a heavy car. But thanks to that, it has power and some body rigidity. It also handles cornering well and fast on the circuit as well. You can also drift with the 80 as well.
- Q.Lastly, could you please tell us about your enthusiasm for the Nürburgring 24 hours race?
- As I said before, I’m a “street car driver”. From my perspective running the circuit through the mountain pass, Nürburgring is the circuit I’ve been yearning for. It’s the place I want to drive at least once. And for me, to be among a gathering of “street car drivers” from all over the world, and be given the opportunity to drive here, it really makes me happy to be in the environment I’ve been put in. During the actual 24 hours race, more than just enjoying the race, I hope to really experience the harshness of the race. I want to evolve the car. I want to give constructive feedback on the car to the staff and various people involved. After the race is finished, I hope that the car will really evolve.