Kobayashi: BMW's lack of Fuji pace a "big shame"
Kamui Kobayashi says it was a "big shame" that BMW couldn't take the fight to its rivals in Saturday's first leg of the SUPER GT x DTM Dream Race at Fuji.
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Despite never having driven a DTM car prior to the weekend, Toyota LMP1 racer Kobayashi ended up as BMW's top qualifier in damp conditions in 18th place and likewise was the Bavarian marque's top finisher in the race itself, albeit only in 14th position.
Marco Wittmann was 18th and a lap down after a gamble on a first-lap pitstop failed to pay dividends, while Alex Zanardi's race was ruined by engine problems.
BMW's DTM rival Audi enjoyed a much more competitive showing, Loic Duval qualifying on the front row - only to crash out on the sighting lap - and Benoit Treluyer finishing sixth.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, Kobayashi recalled: "We are struggling a lot in terms of pace and degradation. I didn’t care at the beginning about deg, I just tried to push. I gained positions but then suddenly there was a massive drop.
"Then I had to save the tyre, but it didn’t work, still we had massive deg. In the end we dropped a lot of positions, which is a shame.
"We have a lack of downforce, so we are limited on degradation. But still we have a lot of high-speed [corners], we can’t get any speed there. Big shame today but it’s how it is."
He added: "For me today it was hard to push really. I never drove this car so I have no clue how to drive with this car, this [Hankook] tyre, [especially in] mixed conditions.
"Hopefully with this experience tomorrow I can push a little bit more which maybe I can enjoy properly."
Two-time DTM champion Wittmann was joined in starting on wet tyres and stopping on the first lap by Honda driver Tadasuke Makino, but their plan relied on a Safety Car period allowing them to jump to the head of the field.
Instead, the one caution period of the race arrived too late, with Wittmann having already been forced into a second stop, condemning him to 18th place.
"We started on the wets, but our clear plan was to stop on lap one," Wittmann explained to Motorsport.com. "We went for a risky strategy hoping for a safety car.
"From that position, from the back of the grid, there was not much we could do, especially as SUPER GT is quicker in a straight line. Not having this pace advantage, we decided we had to do something different. Unfortunately the safety car came too late in the race.
"Pace-wise we looked promising but to run through the race with one set of tyres is nearly impossible, it’s only something you can do if the safety car comes out and you can survive with a big gap. But we decided to stop for a second time and it was clear the race was gone."
Marco Wittmann, BMW Team RBM BMW M4 DTM
Photo by: Andreas Beil
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