TOYOTA Racing will start the Six Hours of Shanghai from pole position after an impressive performance in qualifying for the penultimate round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The #7 of Alex Wurz and Nicolas Lapierre, winners last year in Shanghai, came out on top in qualifying by 0.089secs to earn top spot on the grid for tomorrow’s race.
Following a strong practice performance, the #8 of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Stéphane Sarrazin was also in the hunt for pole. Sébastien and Stéphane were the two nominated qualifiers and took third place.
Qualifying this year 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.
This week’s event is compressed into two days, meaning today featured a hectic programme with a pair of two-hour practice sessions preceding qualifying.
In opening practice Nicolas set the fastest time for the #7 to take fourth while Sébastien clocked the quickest lap in the sister car on its way to second.
Final practice suffered two red flag interruptions and was extended by 20 minutes as a result.
When the chequered flag fell, the #7 and #8 were in third and second thanks to laps from Alex and Stéphane respectively, but a penalty saw the #1 Audi’s time disallowed, promoting the TS030 HYBRIDs to the top of the timing sheets.
TS030 HYBRID #7 (Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre)
Free practice 1: 4th (1min 48.566secs), 44 laps
Free practice 2: 2nd (1min 49.549secs), 49 laps
Qualifying: 1st (1min 48.013secs average)
Alex Wurz: “That’s my second pole here in WEC at Shanghai so it’s good to keep up my 100% record. Today went well and I am very happy with the three laps that I did. I’m happy with my day, I made no real mistakes in qualifying and now we look towards the race. There’s not a lot more to say.”
Nicolas Lapierre: “It’s good for the team. We have seen today that the car was also good on the long runs so it could be good as well tomorrow. I have to say congratulations to Alex because he made the lap times at the beginning of qualifying. He did a great job. It could be a strategic race, particularly in terms of tyre management. The car is looking good. Normally we are more competitive in the race than in qualifying which bodes well.”
TS030 HYBRID #8 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Stéphane Sarrazin)
Free practice 1: 2nd (1min 47.849 secs), 46 laps
Free practice 2: 1st (1min 49.302 secs), 48 laps
Qualifying: 3rd (1min 48.694secs average)
Anthony Davidson: “In both practice sessions prior to qualifying we had a decent balance on our car but the grip level was heavily affected due to the increased track temperatures in the second session. We had to chase the grip a bit and that made things a bit challenging. Regardless of what happened in qualifying, we feel the car is in good shape for the race which is the main thing.”
Sébastien Buemi: “In the end it is a good day for the team because the #7 got pole position. We are a bit frustrated because we are in third place, so we will try to understand what happened. But we are still happy with the overall performance of the team and we’ll try to turn that into a good result tomorrow.”
Stéphane Sarrazin: “It was difficult in qualifying. I didn’t do a great lap on my first flying lap. I had a big lock up and had some understeer so I could not push as hard as I wanted. Congratulations to #7 for pole position; that’s very good for the team. Now we have to push throughout the six hours to get a strong result.”