Hiroto Kaneso made the remarks in the wake of the #31 Lexus LC500h’s fifth-place finish in the fifth round of the season, despite the team’s pre-season prediction that Suzuka would be the ideal match for the new hybrid-powered car.
Apr has run a three-driver crew comprising Saga and youngsters Kazuto Kotaka and Yuki Nemoto for the longer 450km races this season, but Saga hasn’t driven a stint in a race since the second round of the season at Fuji.
Saga was entrusted with getting the LC500h out of the first segment of qualifying, only to end up 10th-fastest and condemn the team to starting 20th in the GT300 class.
Post-race, Kaneso couldn’t hide his frustration, pinning the blame for the team’s poor result on Saga’s inability to extract the potential of his team’s new creation, which relies on its prowess in high-speed corners to generate lap time.
“The reason we dropped out in Q1 is that Saga has not yet been able to adjust his driving to this car,” Kaneso told Motorsport.com’s Japanese edition. “Honestly, we shouldn’t be so far down the grid.
“We need to improve our results in qualifying. We may have overtaken 10 cars this time, but what if we had started at the front?
“Saga’s driving style is from the Showa era [referring to the period in Japanese history stretching from 1926 to 1989]. The current car is reliant on aerodynamics, so if your inputs are too jerky, you can’t generate G-force and the required amount of downforce.
“If you turn sharply to pitch the car into the corner and leave it yawing, like the old way of driving, it won’t stick to the ground so well. Hard braking also means the clearance between the front splitter and the ground disappears, and you lose front downforce.
“The old style of leaving braking as late as the ‘X number of metres signboard’ doesn’t work today. The young ‘Generation Z’ drivers are driving in a different way.”
However, Kaneso said that Saga will remain part of the team going forward, with the 40-year-old registered to drive alongside Kotaka in next weekend’s Sugo race.
“It doesn’t mean I’ll give up on him, because he’s a talented driver,” Kaneso said of Saga, a member of apr since 2010. “He’s studying hard.”
Apr took the decision to build the new LC500h this season after years of struggling with the uncompetitive front-engined version of the Toyota Prius PHV GR Sport.
After losing the chance of a strong result in the previous race at Fuji due to a fuel-related infringement in qualifying, Kaneso admitted that the team has to address its weaknesses on the human resources side after creating a stronger technical package.
“Until last year, we were using the Prius and we knew the car was our weak point,” said Kaneso. “We were focused too much on car-car-car, and we neglected the other parts.
“While we were finally able to design a good car, the people around us were not able to keep up. First the mechanics and the management cost us results. This time it was the drivers.”
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