TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will start the 84th Le Mans 24 Hours from the second row of the grid after rain washed out most of the final qualifying sessions at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
The #6 TS050 HYBRID of Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi will start TOYOTA’s 18th Le Mans from third place, alongside the #5 of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima which will line up fourth.
The starting grid at Le Mans is decided by the best single lap time from any of the three qualifying sessions, one of which took place on Wednesday with the other two on Thursday.
Wednesday’s lap times put the two TS050 HYBRIDs in provisional third and fourth, but improving those times was not top of the agenda in the final two sessions; instead, the priority was on optimising the race set-up.
Both cars made the most of 30 minutes of dry running at the start of second qualifying before the heavy rain arrived as forecast. Despite a wet track, the race preparation continued, with long stints for both cars on wet tyres.
Even heavier rain at the beginning of second qualifying limited running and caused a lengthy red flag period. When the session resumed with 45 minutes remaining, the drivers gained experience of the Michelin wet tyres on a very wet track at night.
Those conditions prevented any late change of position. TOYOTA expresses its congratulations to the Porsche #2 car, which will start the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours from pole position.
With comprehensive preparations from all areas of the team now completed, TOYOTA is looking forward to a competitive race when the French Tricolore waves to signal the start at 15.00 local time on Saturday.
TS050 HYBRID #5 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)
Qualifying 1: 4th (3min 21.903secs), 27 laps
Qualifying 2: 2nd (3min 24.399secs), 24 laps
Qualifying 3: 3rd (3min 51.693secs), 13 laps
Anthony Davidson: “It was good that I got to drive in the wet because that was the one piece of the puzzle missing from my preparations. I am happy that the car felt okay in the rain and we were competitive also; I think we have all bases covered now. You always want more time to perfect the car but we have done a pretty comprehensive job considering how the weather has been.”
Sébastien Buemi: “Qualifying is over now and we are happy; third and fourth are decent positions to start from. We have completed good work in wet and dry conditions so we are ready now. The race is long and the key is finishing and making no mistakes. Now we will go through the data and take the final steps; it is the biggest and most important preparation of the season.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “It was a very tricky day as the conditions changed a lot, and it was especially tough when I drove the car. There was a lot of rain and a lot of water on the track so the conditions were very difficult and the visibility was bad. But it was helpful to experience that already and it is nice to know we that are ready for any condition. I think we can have a good race.”
TS050 HYBRID #6 (Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi)
Qualifying 1: 3rd (3min 20.737secs), 30 laps
Qualifying 2: 4th (3min 25.899secs), 22 laps
Qualifying 3: 1st (3min 50.934secs), 14 laps
Stéphane Sarrazin: “Thanks to the fans for their support even in such bad weather. Today was complicated for us due to the rain but we tested the car in difficult conditions and we found a good balance. We are all happy and we are ready for the race. I feel we have a strong car and we can push; we are in the game. In the race at Spa we were fast so I expect we can fight at the front here.”
Mike Conway: “It was really bad out there. It’s helpful to get some wet running as this tells us where the water builds up, where to place the car and what tyres to choose. It could rain during the race so we need to be prepared for every situation. All the drivers are happy with the car balance and we can do something from the second row.”
Kamui Kobayashi: “That was actually my first time to drive the TS050 HYBRID in fully wet conditions, so it was a useful experience for me. We learned a lot about the car in the wet so I am pretty happy. The team has prepared really well so we are looking forward to the race. We are starting from third; we want to make a good start and then fight for 24 hours.”
1st #2 Porsche (Dumas/Jani/Lieb)
2nd #1 Porsche (Bernhard/Webber/Hartley)
3rd #6 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing
4th #5 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing
5th #8 Audi (di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis)
6th #7 Audi (Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer)
Qualifying 2 results:
1st #1 Porsche (Bernhard/Webber/Hartley) 3min 23.307secs 15 laps
2nd #5 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1.092secs 24 laps
3rd #2 Porsche (Dumas/Jani/Lieb) +2.204secs 15 laps
4th #6 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +2.592secs 22 laps
5th #8 Audi (di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis) +3.373secs 21 laps
6th #12 Rebellion (Prost/Heidfeld/Piquet) +4.266secs 9 laps
Qualifying 3 results:
1st #6 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 3min 50.934secs 14 laps
2nd #7 Audi (Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer) +0.698secs 10 laps
3rd #5 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.759secs 13 laps
4th #2 Porsche (Dumas/Jani/Lieb) +3.230secs 7 laps
5th #8 Audi (di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis) +6.541secs 8 laps
6th #1 Porsche (Bernhard/Webber/Hartley) +7.894secs 6 laps