Le Mans: Nakajima cleared to take part in test day

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Kazuki Nakajima has been given the green light to take part in the first official test day ahead of the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe on Sunday following his injury at Spa-Francorchamps at the beginning of the month.

Nakajima sustained a fractured vertebra in a crash during practice for the 6 Hours of Spa behind the wheel of the no. 1 Toyota LMP1 car, and was ruled out of the race as a result.

Few expected Nakajima to be fit for Le Mans, with team reserve Kamui Kobayashi being pencilled in as a likely replacement for the race alongside regular drivers Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi.

However, Toyota has confirmed that Nakajima will be taking part in practice on Sunday as originally planned following a swift recovery from injury.

“Kazuki Nakajima will return to the No. 1 TS040 HYBRID on Sunday for the official Le Mans test, the first time he has driven the car since an accident at Spa earlier this month left him with a fractured vertebra,” a statement from the team read.

In a Q&A on Toyota’s website, Nakajima explained how he feels mentally stronger as a result of the accident and that he originally had hoped to still race at Spa.

“Right after accident firstly I thought about the car,” he said. “I was worried about the chassis because we have damaged a couple this year already and if that was another one I would be very disappointed.

“I had some back pain so I was a bit worried about myself. But I could feel my legs so I knew it was not too serious and initially I still hoped to race at Spa. This is my first full season of WEC so I didn’t want to miss the second race.”

Le Mans remained the main target for Nakajima and Toyota, though, as the Japanese marque looks to break Audi’s stranglehold on the famed event and claim victory in what is shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable LMP1 class fights in years.

“I was always thinking that I could drive [at Le Mans],” Nakajima said. “I did have a little pain in my muscles after the operation so I wondered then if it would work out okay.

“But the pain reduced every day and after a few days everything felt basically fine. In a way I think I am stronger now as a driver, certainly I am mentally stronger due to this experience.”

Sunday’s practice will mark the beginning of the two-week long programme at Le Mans, culminating in the the twice-around-the-clock race on June 14-15.