TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will start the penultimate round of the World Endurance Championship from the third row of the grid after a disappointing qualifying session for the Six Hours of Shanghai.
For the fourth consecutive race, the #1 TS040 HYBRID of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima will start from fifth place on the grid, with the #2 of Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway in sixth.
Despite the lead TS040 HYBRID going 1.626secs quicker than the fastest lap in last year’s qualifying, both cars were behind their rivals as Porsche #17 took top spot.
Sébastien, who celebrated his 27th birthday today, began qualifying in the #1 car, while Alex, who won this race in 2012 and finished second in the previous two seasons, was in the #2.
Qualifying requires two drivers from each car to set a minimum of one flying lap, with the average of both drivers’ fastest lap deciding the grid.
On a bright day which saw 18°C air temperature, Sébastien clocked just a single flying lap before handing over to Anthony in fifth whereas Alex stayed out for an additional lap to improve his time. Mike took over the #2 in sixth.
The order reversed briefly when Anthony struggled with tyre grip on his first lap but when the chequered flag flew, the #1 held fifth place by 0.186secs from the #2, although pole position was 3.057secs away.
TS040 HYBRID #1 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)
Free practice 3: 5th (1min 46.365secs), 25 laps
Qualifying: 5th (1min 45.776secs average)
Anthony Davidson: “In qualifying we are where we expected to be but the guys did a great job to get us on track in the right place, in free air. We pushed as hard as we could and we will see where we can be tomorrow. Hopefully we can fight for a podium; that’s always our target and we won’t stop fighting.”
Sébastien Buemi: “It’s not the birthday present I wanted but you need to see the positive side. It’s always a pleasure to drive such a nice track and we improved our lap time massively compared to last year. We are fighting hard, sticking together and trying to operate at a high level so we will come back stronger next year.”
TS040 HYBRID #2 (Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway)
Free practice 3: 6th (1min 46.530secs), 14 laps
Qualifying: 6th (1min 45.962secs average)
Alex Wurz: “We decided to do a tyre test in qualifying today. We are too far away to realistically challenge over one lap so we decided to get some data which can help us for tomorrow and the next race. It almost worked but didn’t in the end; that’s okay as we gained some useful experience.”
Mike Conway: “I am a bit annoyed really with the lap I did. You only get one chance in qualifying and it was a scrappy lap. I threw away probably half a second and there’s no chance to get that back. So I am disappointed with the day but we will push for a decent result tomorrow.”