The purpose of participating
in the Nürburgring 24 Hours race is to train their minds
- Q.What kind of race is the Nürburgring 24 Hours race for TOYOTA?
- When you hear of the Nürburgring 24 Hours race, I think people will imagine a world of competitive racing. TOYOTA participates in the race with the purpose of “human resource development”. This means training cars, drivers, mechanics, and their minds.
- Q.Why the Nürburgring 24 Hours race instead of some other races? Could it not be done at another race?
Most of the circuits in Japan are flat, but the elevation in the Nürburgring course reaches up to around 300 meters with intense ups and downs, areas with jumps, and mortar shaped corners. It is characterized by its extremely harsh environments, and puts a burden on cars that no regular circuit will. There is no other circuit in the world like this. To some extent, if we can drive in this 24 Hours race, we can develop a car that can drive anywhere in the world. For this reason, we have to participate in the race.
Also, by participating in this harsh srace, the vehicles will naturally take damage and breakdown. Thus, the mechanics will also be trained to deal with the occasional accident. We felt that this course is like a world with no routine work.
- Q.What kind of race is the Nürburgring 24 Hours race for you?
- I am not a racer but a developer. I see almost every car from TOYOTA. There are various automotive manufacturers here and almost 200 cars being driven. There are “private” teams and “works” teams. By driving among these groups, we can find superior and inferior aspects of the car during the race. We can use this information for future car development. Whether its acceleration, braking, or cornering, I can feel the potential through my body. If we are still losing, there is a reason for it.
The difference from the old Supra is the “texture”
- Q.You’ve driven the car quite a bit. How was it?
- In some ways, NEW GR Supra has kind of felt like a “shakedown” this time. But the car has better balance than I expected. The car arrived from Japan on February 4th. From there, we painted the body white and started going through various settings. The suspension has been completely redesigned since the last test, this is what I mean when I say “shakedown”. More or less we were setting up while driving it. By the end, it was very easy to drive. We will continue adjusting the settings of the car for safety until the 24 Hour race.
- Q.The German photographer assistant said he drove the NEW GR Supra in the past and said “it turns so easily”.
- The NEW GR Supra itself will be released this May and be available for consumers. The difference between the old Supra and the NEW GR Supra is “comfort” or “texture”. The old Supra was good for those aspects back in the day. However, it is outdated in terms of its “silence” and “texture”. This is one of the target areas for the development this time. The NEW GR Supra is comfortable and has good texture. You might feel as if it is a completely new car.
- Q.I think Supra has a big fan base. So, I imagine that when the new car was revealed, there must have been a big reaction from its fans. How did they actually react to it?
- It was reverberated among the fans. As TOYOTA’s sports car Supra has publicity to some extent, So for TOYOTA to release the NEW GR Supra after 20 years was a big deal. For example, the prices of LFA, the Lexus GSF, or SPCS are more than double that of the NEW GR Supra. I think NEW GR Supra is very attractive because you get more than 300 horsepower for half of those prices.
- Q.What is so attractive about the NEW GR Supra?
The most attractive feature is the texture of the car when driving at low speeds. The suspension strokes well and it is comfortable but not too soft. It feels solid on the road. Since the car was developed while driving through the Swiss, Italian, and French mountains, and the rural roads of Germany, it turns very nice on any road and remains stable even at 200 km/h on the Autobahn.
In other words, the car has a combination of low speed textures, high speed stability, and agility on winding roads.
The NEW GR Supra is very durable, so even without modifying the suspension, it strokes properly. If the body were softer, I’m not sure what would happen to the shock absorbers but it has to be strengthened in order to balance the car. However, NEW GR Supra has a high durable frame, so it runs without modifying the suspension to be more stiff. This is where NEW GR Supra is doing well.
- Q.Do you think that even the general user will feel the car’s comfortability?
- It runs smoothly compared to other cars so I think everybody can feel it. When you drive a car on rural roads with hard suspension, you can feel its stiff movement. Since NEW GR Supra’s suspension strokes well without modification, you can feel its solid texture while driving.
- Q.The comfortability of the car is quite important when driving the 24 Hours race, right?
- Yes. I think the driver won’t feel burdened by the car. In fact, cars that run the 24 Hours race are slightly different from commercial cars. These cars have solid suspension modified to match the slick tires. Also, the car can be comfortably driven without feeling the hardness.
- Q.For the driver, what is so enjoyable about driving the NEW GR Supra in the 24 Hours race?
- The NEW GR Supra will be fairly noticeable in this race. Even just gripping the steering wheel during the race will be exciting. There is a lot of pressure on the drivers and the staff to stay focused and avoid failure. It is good experience to drive with so much tension. The purpose of this race is to “train the car” and “train people”. It’s not about winning or losing, even though viewers are focusing on winning and losing. Our purpose is to become one as a team and get the car driving on the course even if it’s just one minute, one second longer.
- Q.What does it mean for TOYOTA’s only sports car, Supra, to compete in the harsh Nürburgring 24 Hours race?
- There are no other harsh courses like Nürburgring in the world. Customers have different ways of driving cars. We really focused on that and headed into the Nürburgring by getting rid of the poor aspects and improving it. We can get a lot of feedback from driving in the 24 Hours race, so I think it has meaning. We won’t stop the development of the NEW GR Supra after it is released. We need to evolve the vehicle, by using the feedback we get here and it will be reflected in the next model for creating a safer and more stable car.
- Q.Is it really that difficult to complete the 24 Hours race?
- A variety of burdens build while racing the 24 Hours race. Looking back at previous races, even after repeating tests in the VNL, the car had to retire during the 24 Hours race. The car may take on more than it can handle at unexpected areas and breakdown. We really don’t know until the end.
The definition of a car that
“works as it is meant to”
- Q.You said that the race trains the car. Is it necessary for this?
Not all cars are running on clean roads. People are using cars in different ways and are using them in a variety of situations throughout the world.
It is good to take time to test cars on public roads, but it will take 10, 20 years for bad aspects to appear. Participating in the 24 Hours race will condense the burden which can take years to find on public roads. For example, in an F1 race, the knowledge gained during the race can be feedback for a general car. The product is completed by testing durability, among other elements. In the world of racing, these tests are performed over a short period of time.
- Q.As a result of “training” the Supra, what would the ideal car be?
The definition of a “good car” depends on each individual. But I think a car that “moves according to one’s intention” is a good car. When you turn the steering wheel, it may turn late or maybe you stop the car here but it ends up somewhere else. If you want to drive at 100 km/h but the car can’t get going that fast or maybe it moves too fast. The ideal car would be one that works as you intend it to, without problems as such.
A car has almost the same movement as a human. It is best that a car can move according to that rhythm. I think we are currently getting closer to that level. But we still have work left to do. I want to reflect the work we couldn’t get done this time in the next model.
- Q.Do you think you will be able to finish the 24 Hours race?
We will finish it. In our current situation, I don’t think we have any problems. I want to stay on the course for 24 hours safely. Since I have experienced various problems in the past, I can’t really say we will finish the race. We had done many tests in a previous race, and thought we were good to go, but during that 24 Hours race, the car broke down in just 2 Hours…
So I’m doing my best now to eliminate all of the faults the car might have.
- Q.What is the importance of teamwork in completing the 24 Hours race?
- I think the most important thing as a team is to ensure everyone is aligned to a certain goal. We have to aim to complete the 24 Hours race from the development phase of the car as a team. With teamwork, we can support each other, so we should be close to finish the 24 Hours race with the NEW GR Supra. Our goal is to unite mechanics together in order to keep the NEW GR Supra on course till the very end. As a result, I hope we can move up to a higher position if possible. We will eliminate faults, fix problems, and get past the flag at the end of the race. I think we will definitely get good results in the 24 Hours race if we have good teamwork. During the race, we will show how good the NEW GR Supra is. I think people will understand when they see the NEW GR Supra on the course. Thank you all for your support.