In early December, the FIA Gala took place in Baku, Azerbaijan. It is the event where all FIA champions gather to receive well-deserved year-end awards. In front of the entrance were six world title winning cars. Three of them were from the Toyota Gazoo Racing family (WEC, WRC ánd Rally Raid). And let that be the very family De Vries joined.
In early December, the FIA prize gala took place in Azerbaijan, where all FIA World Champions are celebrated, with their title-winning cars on display.
Of the six, three were from Toyota’s efforts in the World Endurance and Rally Championships and in Rally Raid – and it is this family Nyck de Vries has joined.
Ending the year with a plum Toyota WEC seat is far from what de Vries envisioned when starting the year set for an AlphaTauri Formula 1 campaign, but after being jettisoned after the British Grand Prix, the 2020/21 Formula E champion is back.
Not only is he set to race for Toyota in WEC, he is also returning to FE with Mahindra, with his Mercedes team no longer existing, and is looking forward to dovetailing both series – as is a common practice..
“That contact has always remained,” De Vries says in an exclusive interview with RacingNews365.
“I’ve always said that the more you drive the better it is. I also previously combined Formula 2 with the WEC [in LMP2], and later also Formula E and the WEC, and changing between those was fine.
“Every year you gain experience that you take with you as experience, and this year was no different. [The F1] experience shapes me into who I am today.
“I also had some time to scale down and not be involved in motor racing at all for a while, but by now that focus on racing is back 100%”
World title or Le Mans? That’s a no-brainer!
De Vries will have experienced teammates Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway alongside him at Toyota, and is keen to learn from his WEC-title and Le Mans 24 Hours-winning team-mates.
“I’m obviously new to it and can learn a lot from those guys. I like hearing the stories of my team-mates who have already achieved so much, even in endurance racing,” says de Vries.
“But what can I contribute myself? Above all, I think we can be very strong as a collective. That is more important than the sum of individual qualities.”
“It has to do with the set-up. Everyone demands something slightly different from the car. You never have the car completely the way you want it. That’s true for all classes, but here you have to figure it out together.”
“It makes a difference whether you drive a one-hour race or longer. The car has to last a maximum of 6, 8, 24 hours and so you build in reserves in that area as well, and as a racing driver you always want to win.
Asked what would weigh more heavily for him, overall victory in the championship or winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans, he speaks firmly: “That’s a no-brainer, that’s Le Mans.”
© TOYOTA GAZOO Racing
De Vries already tested out his new car
And in that light, Toyota has something to put right. Yes, the team won the title in ’23, but had to leave victory at the Circuit de la Sarthe to Ferrari. Toyota’s communications coordinator added that the defeat “stings quite a bit.”
“I have not yet been able to spend enough time with everyone to know what everyone is thinking and feeling, nor was I part of the team at the time – but I did sit by myself on the couch watching until three in the morning,” says de Vries.
“I can only underline that Le Mans is the most important race.”