TOYOTA Racing experienced a disappointing qualifying for the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps as its two TS030 HYBRIDs qualified fourth and fifth for the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The team gave a competitive debut to its updated TS030 HYBRID, with the #7 crew of Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima being the first to try the 2013 car, in low-downforce Le Mans specification at a race weekend.
The #8 line-up of Anthony Davidson, Stéphane Sarrazin and Sébastien Buemi continued with the 2012 car, in high-downforce specification, following their third place at Silverstone in the first race of the season.
With neither car in optimum downforce configuration for the specific requirements of the unique Spa circuit, the #7 qualified fourth in the hands of Alex and Kazuki. The #8 was fifth, with Stéphane and Anthony having qualified.
A busy day of track action got underway in the morning with a pair of two-hour practice sessions. Despite a wet track early in morning practice, both cars completed the sessions without major issues.
The 30-minute qualifying session saw two drivers from each car set a minimum of two flying laps each. The grid is decided by the combined average of each driver’s fastest two laps.
As the sun began to set, the conditions remained dry although an early red flag due to an accident delayed proceedings. All four drivers performed consistently but the chequered flag flew with both cars narrowly missing out on the top three.
Tomorrow sees a 20-minute warm-up session at 9.00 followed by the race itself, with the green flag at 14.30.
Pascal Vasselon, Technical Director: “The cars are not in the same configuration and it’s true the Le Mans car is lacking downforce here but we are disappointed by our performance today. We haven’t extracted the maximum performance from the car. The schedule is very tight and we haven’t had a lot of time to analyse but the fact is that we would have expected to do a bit better. Fortunately we have a warm-up tomorrow morning to try some different settings because we need to find lap time, particularly in sector two.”
TS030 HYBRID #7 (Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre, Kazuki Nakajima)
Free practice 1: 4th (2min 2.856secs), 37 laps
Free practice 2: 5th (2min 2.332secs), 49 laps
Qualifying: 4th (2min 0.947secs average)
Alex Wurz: “Our qualifying was not perfect but from Kazuki and myself there weren’t any real mistakes. It averages out over four timed laps so the result reflects pretty well the respective performance levels at this track today. Inside the car, which is in Le Mans spec, I feel that the downforce level we have is a compromise. It’s not the result we wanted but we will do our best tomorrow and fight for a decent result.”
Nicolas Lapierre: “It was a tough day for us. It was the first time for our car on this track and we struggled to get the right set-up. It’s interesting to compare the two cars and we have some interesting data. But this isn’t the result we were looking for so it could be a tough race. We will work on some things in the warm-up and try to find the right balance. It is a long race and we will do our best to finish in a strong position; we have not given up on the weekend.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “It was a difficult session; we did everything we could but Audi was quick. From the morning practice on we’ve been looking for better car balance and more grip. We have tried some different set-ups and qualifying was better but we did not completely solve the problem; we still have work to do. We need to keep our heads up and keep fighting for a good result in the race.”
TS030 HYBRID #8 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Stéphane Sarrazin)
Free practice 1: 6th (2min 3.143secs), 40 laps
Free practice 2: 6th (2min 2.524secs), 44 laps
Qualifying: 5th (2min 1.203secs average)
Anthony Davidson: “You always feel disappointed to be fifth when you’re used to fighting for pole but tomorrow is another day. It’s going to be a challenge to manage the tyres and the traffic is not easy here as well so it will be a tough race. We have to be clever in traffic and keep it clean for the first half of the race; that might put us in a good position at the end.”
Sébastien Buemi: “We knew it would be difficult for the #8 car as we do not have the 2013-spec car. So it’s disappointing to be fifth but not entirely unexpected. The race will be long and anything can happen but at the moment we seem to be a little bit behind. We need to stay focused and get the maximum out of the #8 in the race; we know the car very well and will try hard to improve our position.”
Stéphane Sarrazin: “I only had a couple of flying laps at the beginning of the qualifying due to the red flag, which disrupted things a bit. We knew it could be a challenge with the 2012 car, against new cars from Audi and our own 2013-specification TS030 HYBRID. We pushed to the maximum but the high-downforce configuration is not ideal for Spa. We’ll keep pushing tomorrow.”