Kazuki Nakajima says despite Toyota finding 'around two seconds' in developments in 2015 he admits the team didn't do enough to keep up with its Porsche and Audi rivals.
The former Formula 1 driver joined Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi in the #1 Toyota TS040 Hybrid LMP1 machine this season as the pair looked to defend their World Endurance Championship drivers title but failed to keep up with its German manufacturer rivals this year, only gracing the podium on a single occasion at the season opener Silverstone 6 Hours.
Nakajima, who missed the second round of the year at Spa after suffering a heavy shunt in a wet practice session sustaining a fractured vertebrae, says Toyota's 2015 challenger made strong gains but admitted it struggled to match the aggressive improvements produced by Porsche and Audi with its Hybrid engines.
“We definitely had a good step forward, without dramatic changes to the powertrain,” Nakajima said. “The car in 2015 was around two seconds quicker than last year, so normally you would think it's a good step. But because of the new technology we have in WEC, the steps the other manufacturers did were incredible. We made a good step but it was simply not enough.”
Despite a difficult campaign Nakajima says he was thrilled to fightback from injury at Spa to make it to the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hours where he finished eighth alongside Davidson and Buemi.
“I worked really hard, with great support from the medical team and physios, to be back for Le Mans,” he explained. “When I heard that I was okay to race, it was a nice moment. It's easy to forget how the situation was directly after Spa; at that time it was really difficult. So that is a highlight from a tough season.
“It has been a difficult season for sure. We knew that it was not going to be as dominant as last year but we expected to win some races and fight for the championship.”
Nakajima has already began a rigorous winter testing schedule in Japan at Toyota's factory as he targets a return to the top step of the podium in WEC next season.