TOYOTA Racing extended its run of front-row starts in the FIA World Endurance Championship with a strong performance in qualifying for the Six Hours of Bahrain, the penultimate round of the 2014 season.
The team had started each of the previous nine WEC races, covering the end of the 2013 season and all races this year, from the front row of the grid and that run stretched to 10 under lights in Bahrain this evening.
World Championship leaders Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi, who can secure the title this weekend with a good result, took second position in the #8 TS040 HYBRID, just 0.265secs off pole position.
Alex Wurz and Mike Conway, in the #7 they share with Stéphane Sarrazin, start from the second row in fourth to give TOYOTA a strong platform as it looks to defend a 29-point lead in the manufacturers’ World Championship.
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.
Under floodlights and using the TS040 HYBRID’s high-powered LED headlights, Alex and Anthony hit the track immediately when the 25-minute session began.
Both completed two flying laps before handing over to Mike and Sébastien respectively. At that stage the #7 was classified fourth with the #8 in second.
Mike, who also took qualifying duty on his previous race weekend for the team in Austin, completed four timed laps and held third place until the final moments when the #7 was pushed back to fourth by only 0.069secs.
Sébastien clocked three timed laps but also opted to finish the session in the pits in order to minimise tyre wear, with all cars required to start the race on the same set of tyres as used in qualifying. The race starts at 15.00 local time on Saturday.
TS040 HYBRID #7 (Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway)
Free practice 3: 2nd (1min 44.710secs), 26 laps
Qualifying: 4th (1min 44.260secs average)
Alex Wurz: “It didn’t go exactly to plan on our car in qualifying. I didn’t feel great with the car and that meant I didn’t get the best of out it. That’s life and I won’t dwell on it. Now we have a six-hour race to do tomorrow and we’ll fight for a better result.”
Mike Conway: “Qualifying was all right. My first lap was good and I pushed for a second lap straight away but the tyres dropped off. So I cooled them down and went for another, which felt really good at the start but I lost time in the last sector. I went a little bit quicker but it was not quite what we wanted. It would have been tough to beat Porsche. Tomorrow is another story and we’ll be pushing as hard as possible.”
TS040 HYBRID #8 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi)
Free practice 3: 5th (1min 46.226secs), 21 laps
Qualifying: 2nd (1min 43.410secs average)
Anthony Davidson: “As a driver I prefer to get the pole position and the bonus point, but it was a better result than we expected. When we saw the speed of the Porsches in qualifying trim I didn’t expect to beat either of them to be honest. So I am really happy to have done that and I’m looking forward to the race. Tomorrow will be a completely different day in terms of tyre wear and management so I’m looking forward to it.”
Sébastien Buemi: “Overall I’m really happy with the performance. I know we are used to fighting for pole position and today we were two tenths on average slower but Porsche did a great job, we have to say. But we are there, we are competitive. So I am looking forward to the race because I am sure we have a good pace to fight hard. Our target is to have a good clean race until the end, then we see what happens.”