The #8 TS040 HYBRID of Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi took third place, missing pole position by 0.394secs. Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway, in the #7 they share with Alex Wurz, starts directly behind on the grid, from fifth.
Anthony and Sébastien have already secured the drivers’ World Championship so the manufacturers’ title has the team’s full focus this weekend. TOYOTA leads by 40 points with a maximum of 43 now available to rivals Audi.
Both TS040 HYBRIDs elected to wait briefly at the start of qualifying in order to avoid traffic on the 4.309km Interlagos track, the shortest circuit on the WEC calendar.
Interlagos is also the highest track on the calendar, at nearly 800m above sea level, and this has a detrimental effect on the performance of normally-aspirated – as opposed to turbo – engines, like that in the TS040 HYBRID.
The WEC qualifying format 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.
Anthony took the first stint for the #8 and was immediately in the fight for pole position, while Stéphane joined a tight LMP1 battle in the #7.
Anthony recorded two timed laps before handing over to Sébastien while Stéphane cooled the tyres midway through his stint and completed a total of six laps prior to Mike’s stint.
Sébastien kept the #8 in the hunt for pole, but traffic at the end of his quickest lap hindered his cause. Mike got agonisingly close to fourth place but had to settle for fifth, just 0.031secs short.
TS040 HYBRID #7 (Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway)
Free practice 3: 4th (1min 18.650secs), 30 laps
Qualifying: 5th (1min 18.920secs average)
Stéphane Sarrazin: “I did my best but the car was oversteering quite a bit on corner entry and Mike suffered the same feeling. We are fifth so it’s not the end of the world. We had a chance for fourth but that’s racing. I think we have a good car for the race; we have spent the week trying to find the best compromise for the six hours so we will see tomorrow.”
Mike Conway: “We should have been fourth to be honest, to put both cars on the second row. The car was quick enough to move up to fourth and it looked like I would manage. But I made a little mistake on my last lap and that cost us time. I was going a lot quicker before that. But it’s a long race and I am confident we have a strong car, so our focus is on tomorrow.”
TS040 HYBRID #8 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi)
Free practice 3: 3rd (1min 18.427secs), 33 laps
Qualifying: 3rd (1min 18.070secs average)
Anthony Davidson: “It was a slightly better qualifying than we expected. The Porsches were flying in qualifying trim; we couldn’t fight them today but tomorrow is where the real work starts. It will be a tough race; physical, hot and the traffic is always a consideration here. It should be fun. I think this is the first weekend this season where all three LMP1 manufacturers have been so close in race trim so it should be exciting.”
Sébastien Buemi: “I think we did the maximum we could with third place today. The Porsches did a great job again in qualifying, which was expected. I am sure we have a chance in the race so I am still confident. Let’s see what we can do. The target is clearly the manufacturers’ World Championship for the team but I am sure we will have a say in the fight for the race win as well.”