Kobayashi intrigued by new CTMP challenges with Lexus
Kamui Kobayashi has quite a task ahead of him this weekend. Stepping into the #14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GTD PRO car replacing the injured Jack Hawksworth, Kobayashi will drive the RC F GT3 car for the first time in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. He will drive with a newcomer, Ben Barnicoat, on a circuit at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park on which he has never raced. And, while at Watkins Glen last week in the No. 48 Cadillac DPi car, he had to return to Europe in the meantime, so he arrived too late to do the track march on Thursday afternoon. His only experience is on the simulator.
“I went to the simulator in Charlotte and drove around the track,” he says. “Of course I’ve driven the RC F GT3 car and I felt quite familiar. I’ve driven in GTD with Ferrari and AMG, and it was my first time in RC F, but I know the GT3 quite well, so I know the car to tune pretty well The hardest part will be on the track – I did a track on the simulator but still a real car on a real track might be different I try to make some my best, but for sure with the support of the team we can do it in a short time.”
Kobayashi’s regular role when not driving the No. 48 Cadillac in Michelin Endurance Cup races is as driver and team manager for Toyota Gazoo Racing in the World Endurance Championship – the reason for his return trip to Europe. Given the relationship with Toyota, he was a logical choice to replace Hawksworth. And that may come in handy as Toyota develops its next generation of GT3 cars. His previous experience in an RC F was in Japanese Super GT which, although similar, has enough differences that the experience does not directly transfer.
“The Super GT is a rather special category. We have competition in the tire business; obviously this makes for very special tires with lots of grip. So we don’t work a lot on the settings, but we work more on the tire settings, it’s quite strange”, he says. “The Super GT has a lot of downforce; in terms of downforce, it’s quite different. In GT3 we have ABS, we have traction control, Super GT doesn’t have ABS, we don’t have traction control either.
So with little recent GT experience, it’s going to be a big adjustment from the prototypes, says Kobayashi. But he is up for the challenge and admits to being a fan of GT cars.
“I grew up in the open-wheel car – I did Formula 1, then I came to sports cars and I know sports cars better now,” said the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans winner “When I jump in a GT car, it’s different. There are many good drivers in the GT field. Obviously it’s not easy to be fast right away, but I think it’s something I’ll need to race at some point. I think this is a very important category.
“I love it because this car, visually you can see the road car and change it to a bit different visual. It looks like a race car and I think it’s totally ideal for sports automobile in the future. I think the sports car (Toyota) is a good car and very high competition but from the road car, the visual is different. This GT car is the same as a road car. I really like the idea of what we’re doing here.