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Kobayashi Keen for More IMSA Appearances

Defending Rolex 24 winner Kamui Kobayashi “trying to do more American races” in the future…

Photo: MPS Agency

Kamui Kobayashi says he’d like to contest more IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races beyond the Rolex 24 at Daytona, but schedule demands have prevented him from doing so this year.

The Toyota Gazoo Racing LMP1 driver helped Wayne Taylor Racing to win at Daytona in January, sharing the team’s Cadillac DPi-V.R. with Fernando Alonso, Renger van der Zande and Jordan Taylor.

Last month, Kobayashi was announced as the first member of WTR’s lineup for its 2020 defense, having kept in contact with team owner Wayne Taylor in recent months.

“I’ve only done one [IMSA] race in America, so it would be nice to have more opportunities to drive there,” Kobayashi told Sportscar365.

“This year I have a tight schedule so I can’t make much more than Daytona. I’m trying to do more American races because when you do these races it’s different.

“I enjoyed Daytona a lot and enjoyed working with Wayne Taylor and the American guys.

“We just kept in touch [after this year’s Rolex 24]. I am happy to work with them again. It came by naturally.”

When asked if he has any other WeatherTech Championship races in the pipeline, Kobayashi said, “hopefully, but it’s never easy.”

Toyota prevented its drivers from taking part in last season’s IMSA Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, which took place on the same weekend as the 1000-mile WEC round at the Florida circuit.

IMSA teams typically sign drivers to contest all four Michelin Endurance Cup races at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta, although the Rolex 24 provides some room for deviation because of its early date in the year.

Some teams, including those competing for overall victory in the DPi class, also enter four drivers at Daytona rather than the conventional three, leaving guest slots open.

“There are other race options as well. I’m racing in Super Formula in Japan, so we need to look at the whole calendar [before making a decision],” said Kobayashi.

“My job is to win the WEC title so that’s why I can’t say yes [to IMSA]. Daytona is a January race, so we don’t have any clashes.

“Last year I had Super GT as well, but I stopped it because I wanted to do some different races.”

Losing WEC Title “Not the End of the World”

Kobayashi described last season’s FIA World Endurance Championship title fight, in which the No. 7 car he drives lost out to the sister No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, as frustrating but “not the end of the world.”

Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez arrived at the season-ending 24 Hours of Le Mans with a slim chance of beating Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima to the title, but ultimately fell short.

A reliable run for the No. 8 Toyota, compounded by a late sensor issue for the No. 7 car which prevented it from taking the race win, ensured which way the title went.

“It’s not the end of the world, losing the championship and Le Mans,” Kobayashi suggested, ahead of the new 2019-20 season which starts in two weeks.

“We still get to drive the greatest sports car in the world. We have no time to be down; we have just got to keep up.

“We just didn’t have luck [last season]. At Spa, we had a one-minute lead and we had the sensor failure and needed to change the gearbox. We finished fourth.

“Otherwise, I think we were just behind the No. 8 car. It would have been very nice to be able to win the championship by winning Le Mans, so it was a shame [not to do so].”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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