Image credit: Kim Ellis (@rttfm)

SportscarGlobal’s Nick Holland had the opportunity to catch-up with Toyota Gazoo Racing’s reigning 2014 FIAWEC World Champion Anthony Davidson (AD) for a brief chat yesterday after qualifying.

SCG How does the 2015 Toyota TS040 feel ?

AD We are really happy with the car it has a great balance, a good level of grip compared to last year, we’ve made a good improvement to the chassis, we have no complaints from inside the car it does everything you want it to do. We are going faster at all of the circuits this year so far by over 2-secs per lap.

SCG What do you need to win at Le Mans ?

AD The most important thing is having the Fastest Car ! Reliability is very much on the same level as performance for that race and then you need to have no bad Luck at all. It is a race where you can win in not the fastest car. I’ve been in the position of arriving in the fastest car probably three times now, I’ve led the race, its all looked good and it has not happened for different reasons. Its one of those races where you need to be there at the end and then you see where you are. You just need to let it unfold.

SCG Is there anything you try to improve your chances ?

AD No nothing, I’ve tried many things for Le Mans in preparation, but for this year I’m just going to go there drive, as I know I can, and I’ll see what happens. It sounds silly to say, but I’m over the race, worrying about it if I win that is great, if I don’t I don’t really care. Its just that type of race. To win the championship is more.. it proves you had the best car, the best drivers because you do multiple circuits with different demands and conditions around the world.  It win one race, on one day, well you can be lucky, like we might win tomorrow we haven’t the fastest car but we might still win, and if that was Le Mans we walk away with that trophy. People in the industry respect winning the World Championship more than winning just one race.  Hopefully I’m lucky enough to win Le Mans this year!

SCG Understood a Private Test is scheduled for Spa prior to Le Mans Test, do Toyota have lots of developments specifically for Le Mans ?

AD We have a completely different Aero package for that one race, its quite narrowly tuned for that one race, so we can’t do what Audi are doing here by running the Le Mans package, but at a high enough level to survive round Spa. Its specifically tuned for the one track and I think that is why we are struggling a bit here because we are a bit out of the band where we need to be, we need less drag, but our Le Mans package can’t go as high as we need here. Last year we could, and we were properly optimised for this track, but arguably we did not have enough straight-line speed at Le Mans, we were over-winged for Le Mans, and if you look at the rest of 2014 particularly this race we almost optimised this race more than Le Mans. So we may suffer here, but will be a bit closer at Le Mans.

If you are within about a second away on average race pace you’re certainly in the fight at Le Mans, particularly these days with reliability paramount, last year’s attrition rate every car had a mechanical problem at some point, and the more complex the cars become the higher the chances of that happening, more than ever its less focus on pure speed and more about reliability.

SCG The marginal gains the other teams have made over the winter seem to have been greater than Toyota has been able to make..

AD I wouldn’t call them marginal ! more monumental !!

SCG Indeed currently that seems to come with reliability

AD  We had a Porsche gearbox failure at Silverstone

SCG I was thinking more of the ‘old enemy’ Audi

AD Yes, but they didn’t have issues last year until Le Mans where they had two turbo failures out of nowhere. I don’t think the endurance testing has been as easy as a 6-hour race at Silverstone. Like I said you build a reliable car and it can do the job, we have done a multitude of endurance tests this year and sometimes you sail through them and sometimes you have a problem out of nowhere. That’s what reliability is the car is built to do that job, and theoretically it should be able to get through 24-hours no problem but sometimes there are problems you don’t anticipate.

SCG  Are you working with a relatively tighter budget than other teams?

AD I can’t talk about budgets you would have to talk to the team, but its fair to say we haven’t got the luxury of the other competitors when it comes to that department. You can see that in the second year of stable regulations, teams with more resources can perhaps flex their muscles a bit more. Whereas when no regulations come along you sometimes see the brains in a team working a bit better than the dollar. When things stabilise and you climb that pyramid of performance you can’t be clever any more by thinking outside the box, there is only one direction to go, and it makes sense but as far as budget differences are concerned I can’t comment.

SCG Kaz Nakajima understood to be on the mend and keen for mid-June and Le Mans ?

AD  I don’t know, fingers crossed for him and I hope he takes all the right steps in his progress to recovery.  It is not the same injury as I had, it took me 6 months to drive again. Everyone heals differently, and he is younger than I was when I had my injury, which will help. Its not as bad as my injury which will help.. and we will see.

KazAntHospital

SCG Thanks a lot Ant and Best of Luck