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Nyck de Vries Goes From an F1 Exit to Le Mans

Last July, Nyck de Vries, a driver for the Formula 1 team AlphaTauri, was dismissed 10 Grands Prix into his rookie season.

Eleven months later, de Vries has the opportunity to win one of the most prestigious races in motorsport this weekend when he competes in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“It is no secret that Le Mans is one of the most iconic races in the world as a single stand-alone event,” de Vries said in an interview in May. “Everyone who competes in the F.I.A. World Endurance Championship is very motivated and determined to excel at that particular race.

“You could almost ask yourself the question whether Le Mans is bigger than the whole championship. I don’t fully agree with that because I do really value a world championship, but Le Mans has all the history, and that makes it very special.”

De Vries will drive the No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid with Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway, W.E.C. champions in 2020 and 2021, and who won Le Mans in 2021 with Toyota. De Vries was the reserve driver, but never raced.

It was a role he relinquished last year when he joined AlphaTauri. De Vries replaced José María López, who had partnered with Kobayashi and Conway in their Le Mans victories. The opportunity has been a long time coming.

“As a driver, you want to be in the racing seat, but I think the relationship with Toyota has been great,” de Vries said. “It was always the common target to prepare me to step up. I had full faith in the common intentions and also belief in my ability.

“Things still need to work out and the timing has to be right. I was fortunate after what happened with AlphaTauri. Toyota was very supportive, and they have helped me fulfill my dream. When I became available, it was very straightforward to rejoin forces again.”

Kobayashi, Conway and López spent seven years together with Toyota. “In motorsport, things are constantly evolving, and it’s the same with driver lineups,” Kobayashi, who is also the team principal, told the team’s website.

“Mike, José and I drove together since 2017, which is a long time in any category. We enjoyed some amazing moments together, but also some tough times, particularly at Le Mans.”

Kobayashi said de Vries was “quick and consistent.” The trio won their first race, the 6 Hours of Imola, in April. It was de Vries’s first victory in any category since he won in Formula E with Mercedes in May 2022.

De Vries said he would have accepted third place that weekend, “but the execution from the whole team, including my teammates, was just flawless. Everyone delivered 100 percent. It shows you can outperform your competitors when they are quicker, but you’re better in execution.”

The season is unusual for de Vries. He is dovetailing his commitments in the W.E.C. with Toyota with driving in Formula E with Mahindra Racing.

De Vries, who was Formula E champion with Mercedes in 2021, was offered a multiyear contract by Mahindra after he left Formula 1.

In contrast to Toyota, Mahindra is uncompetitive. De Vries has scored only six points from 10 races, with his best finish seventh in Shanghai. He sat out the race in Berlin in May because it took place on the same weekend as the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.

“They are two very different teams and championships,” de Vries said. “Fortunately, with Toyota, which is a very successful team with a lot of success over the past decade in W.E.C., it’s great to be fighting at the front and challenging for the top positions.

“With Mahindra, the project has a different approach. The team had a difficult year last year, and the hardware,” referring to the powertrain, “hasn’t changed from last year to this year, so we can’t expect miracles. But with all the changes that are happening, the team is on the right trajectory.”

De Vries is aware he is part of a long-term project as Mahindra “builds a foundation for the future,” he said. With Toyota, “the expectations are much higher.”

Toyota won the Le Mans from 2018 to 2022. Its run ended last year when Kobayashi, Conway and López failed to finish, and the Toyota sister car of Sébastien Buemi, Ryo Hirakawa and Brendon Hartley was second.

“Obviously, we experience more disappointment at Toyota when we’re not competitive and fighting for victories,” de Vries said. “But that balance across the two series is really cool and encouraging to experience.”

De Vries is no stranger to Le Mans. He competed in the LMP2 category with Racing Team Nederland in 2019 and 2020, G-Drive Racing the following year and TDS Racing x Vaillante in 2022 when he was fourth in class and eighth over all.

Toyota is expected to challenge for victory in the top Hypercar class this year, but it faces strong opposition from Porsche, Alpine, BMW, Peugeot and Ferrari, last year’s winner.

“It’s hard to have clear expectations,” de Vries said. “It depends on what I want to base my expectations on. If purely on the first couple of events [in the W.E.C.], I would say some of our competitors have the edge over us. If I base it on pure historical numbers, I have faith that we are competitive.

“I don’t have a crystal ball, and I don’t know what we can expect, but I would like to think and hope we are quick enough to fight for the main victory.”

De Vries knows the Circuit de la Sarthe, where the race is held, can bite a driver at any time and quickly wreck ambitions. “Obviously, you have to be quick, and execution is key, making sure that individually and collectively we are on top of our game, not making any mistakes,” he said.

“But Le Mans always has something unexpected for you. Hopefully, Le Mans chooses us to win.”

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