Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi, who share the #8 TS040 HYBRID with Nicolas Lapierre, claimed pole position by more than a second. That earned a bonus point which extends their lead in the drivers’ championship to 21 points.
The team celebrated its third pole position from four races this season, also earning a point which doubles its lead in the manufacturers’ standings to two points.
Mike Conway took part in qualifying on his TOYOTA Racing debut. He, and Stéphane Sarrazin, claimed fifth position in the #7 they share with Alex Wurz.
The WEC qualifying format requires two drivers from each car to set a minimum of two flying laps each. The grid is decided by the combined average of each driver’s fastest two laps.
Earlier rain left parts of the circuit damp for the start of qualifying, so the #8 crew waited for three minutes before heading on track. That decision proved significant as the drying track saw lap times improve throughout the 25-minute session.
Turn 11 was still damp though and Anthony ran wide on his first flying lap while Stéphane, who hit the track immediately after the start of the session set solid lap times.
Mike and Sébastien took over but suffered a frustrating wait when the red flag came out with four minutes remaining.
Both cars queued at the end of the pit lane for a final shoot-out for pole position, with Sébastien securing a four-lap average which was 1.190secs faster than the nearest challenger.
Mike took the chequered flag and fifth place, although the #7 was less than a 10th of a second away from second place.
TS040 HYBRID #7 (Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway)
Free practice 3: 5th (1min 51.506secs), 23 laps
Qualifying: 5th (1min 50.363secs average)
Stéphane Sarrazin: “It was a good qualifying session for the team; the #8 is on pole which is great and we were very close to second place. It will be a very long race so there is plenty to fight for. We started too early in qualifying and the track was still damp. Probably we should have waited a bit. The car was very good and we have nice balance for the race. We can be pretty confident because the car feels good. We will see what tomorrow brings.”
Mike Conway: “It was an okay session. I made a little mistake on the first lap so had to abort. My second flying lap would have been quicker but then the red flag came which was a shame. I thought I could have done a good lap time there but after that I couldn’t quite get that same speed. I’m a little bit disappointed but it’s a long race. Congratulations to the #8 car for getting an impressive pole position. It’s a good day for the team.”
TS040 HYBRID #8 (Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre, Sébastien Buemi)
Free practice 3: 3rd (1min 50.677secs), 26 laps
Qualifying: 1st (1min 49.093secs average)
Anthony Davidson: “It’s fantastic to claim our first pole position of the season, and it’s the first one with Sébastien and me sharing qualifying. It’s a great result as it really shows the true speed of the car. We had such a long break but to come back and realise we still have the speed, that’s really nice. Tomorrow is a different day but for now we will enjoy this moment. We had a plan and it all came together. The team did a really good job in difficult conditions so I am really proud of everyone.”
Sébastien Buemi: “I am really happy to be on pole position. The car was very impressive and we had very little tyre degradation. Honestly, I was not expecting to be on pole position by more than a second after the practice results. So I am very happy and looking forward to tomorrow. I am sure we have a car to fight at the front. We just have to make sure we prepare everything right.”