TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will start its home race from the third row of the grid after today’s qualifying session for the Six Hours of Fuji, the sixth round of the World Endurance Championship.
The World Champions, unbeaten at Fuji Speedway since WEC returned to the Japanese venue in 2012, could not match their rivals in qualifying and the lap times, disappointingly, did not reflect the improved pace shown in practice.
The #1 car of last year’s winners Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi, alongside Kazuki Nakajima, was the lead TS040 HYBRID in fifth position, 2.309seconds behind the pole position-winning Porsche #17.
It will be an all-TOYOTA third row for tomorrow’s race, which starts at 11am local time, with Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway taking sixth place.
Following three consecutive victories at Fuji Speedway, which is just 20km away from the Higashi-Fuji Technical Centre where the TS040 HYBRID powertrain is developed and built, the team is determined to give its home fans a performance to enjoy.
The 20-minute qualifying session took place early in the afternoon, under a grey sky and with air temperatures of 17°C, a little cooler than practice on Friday.
Kazuki was first at the wheel of the #1, while Stéphane began in the #2. Despite 17 LMP1 and LMP2 cars on track at the same time, both had clear laps before handing over to their team-mates.
Only two drivers per car are required to participate in qualifying, with the average of each driver’s fastest lap deciding the grid. Sébastien took over the #1 in provisional fifth place, with Mike in the sixth-placed #2.
Both Sébastien and Mike held those positions during their stints and waited out the final few minutes in the pit box, with the two TS040 HYBRIDs separated by 0.255secs.
TS040 HYBRID #1 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)
Free practice 3: 4th (1min 25.458secs), 33 laps
Qualifying: 5th (1min 25.072secs average)
Sébastien Buemi: “We did the best job we could. In all honesty we are a bit away from where we hoped to be; we looked closer in practice. But that is just qualifying and our focus has been on the race. We will stay positive and see what the weather brings us tomorrow.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “I made a little mistake so the lap time was not ideal, but it didn’t affect the position. We will see what happens tomorrow. Hopefully it is bit wet as this would give us a better chance. We have a lot of support so we are going to keep pushing.”
TS040 HYBRID #2 (Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway)
Free practice 3: 5th (1min 26.186secs), 29 laps
Qualifying: 6th (1min 25.327secs average)
Stéphane Sarrazin: “I waited too long at the end of the pit lane so my tyres went down in temperature and I had an understeering car. I didn’t do an especially good lap as I was not so confident in the car due to the understeer. We have a decent car for the race, so let’s see.”
Mike Conway: “On my first couple of laps I had traffic so the ultimate time could have been a couple of tenths quicker. I am happy with my performance and it was nice to feel the car on low fuel. We couldn’t quite beat the other car but we were close. We’ll work hard overnight and do our best tomorrow when there may be mixed conditions.”