Kovalainen: SARD now more like a "professional team"

Jamie Klein
·2-min read

Ex-Formula 1 racer Kovalainen rounded off his sixth season with SARD with his best grid slot since his title-winning 2016 campaign in the Fuji Speedway finale, although he and teammate Yuichi Nakayama's race was ruined by early contact with Sacha Fenestraz's Toyota.

That left the Finnish driver 11th in the drivers' standings, having missed the first two races of the 2020 campaign due to Japan's COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Yuichi Nakayama, Heikki Kovalainen, Juichi Wakisaka, team director(#39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD GR Supra)

Yuichi Nakayama, Heikki Kovalainen, Juichi Wakisaka, team director(#39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD GR Supra)<span class="copyright">Masahide Kamio</span>
Yuichi Nakayama, Heikki Kovalainen, Juichi Wakisaka, team director(#39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD GR Supra)Masahide Kamio

Masahide Kamio

Nakayama was also full of praise for Wakisaka's leadership after completing his second season with SARD and in SUPER GT's top GT500 class.

"Some people think that because we had a bad start to the season, we could only improve," Nakayama told Motorsport.com. "Even so, we didn't stop and we got better and better, and that's because Juichi-san took the initiative to hold a lot of meetings.

"We had meetings for about three hours every time, from 8pm to midnight. And everyone would go along with it. The mechanics would stay until the end of the meeting, even if it was just the engineers [speaking]. The morale was very high.

"The whole team was working in unison with a positive attitude, and I thought the teamwork was just amazing. I think we were the best of all the Toyota teams in that respect."

Kovalainen added that there is a "good chance" he'll stay at SARD for the 2021 season, and sees no reason why he and the team can't fight for a second SUPER GT crown to add to the success he took alongside Kohei Hirate back in 2016.

"I still have a lot of motivation to race and to keep myself well," said the Finn. "I want to fight for wins and when you’ve not been able to do it for a few years, it’s been tough.

"You start to question yourself - am I losing it? But at the same time I’ve kept some light at the end of the tunnel. I hope we are coming back now."

Additional reporting by Tomohiro Yoshita

#39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD GR Supra

#39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD GR Supra<span class="copyright">Masahide Kamio</span>
#39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD GR SupraMasahide Kamio

Masahide Kamio