TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will start the 6 Hours of Silverstone from pole position after a one-two in qualifying for the first round of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi earned pole position with a combined average lap time of 1min 37.304secs in the #7 TS050 HYBRID they share with José María López. That was achieved via the fastest lap ever recorded by an LMP1 car at Silverstone in WEC.
The pole-sitting #7 crew will start next to their sister car after Kazuki Nakajima and Anthony Davidson set the second quickest time, in the #8 they race alongside Sébastien Buemi.
That meant TOYOTA locked out the front of the grid for the first time since Bahrain in 2013, while the team’s 11th pole position in WEC is its first since Fuji in 2014.
Qualifying took place in sunny but cool conditions, with track temperatures of just 17°C. Kamui and Kazuki took the wheel of their respective cars at the start, with Kamui setting the fastest lap of the session at his first attempt.
Mike took over the #7 but needed two flying laps to secure pole position, and the World Championship point that comes with it, after his first lap was disallowed due to a track limits violation. Like Mike, Anthony also took on new tyres and delivered a tidy lap to complete an all-TOYOTA front row.
While the team is very satisfied with the performance of its high-downforce TS050 HYBRID in qualifying, the main target remains Sunday’s race and it now focuses its efforts on optimising its strategy as it targets for a perfect start to the season.
TS050 HYBRID #7 (Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, José María López)
Free practice 3: 4th (1min 40.656secs). 20 laps
Qualifying: 1st (1min 37.304secs average)
Mike Conway (TS050 HYBRID #7): “I am happy to get pole. It’s a strong start. Hopefully we can keep that pace in the race but it will not be an easy battle I’m sure. I was disappointed with the first lap which got deleted, but that’s the way qualifying goes sometimes. The second lap was enough to get pole by a decent margin, I just made it a little harder for myself.”
Kamui Kobayashi (TS050 HYBRID #7): “I am really pleased with my lap; it’s difficult to see how we could have gone quicker. The car was brilliant today and everyone in the team did a great job. Thanks to the team for their hard work over the winter to prepare a very quick car; I just did the final part of the job with my lap today. To have pole position for the start of the season is fantastic; it’s the best position to start the race.”
TS050 HYBRID #8 (Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson, Kazuki Nakajima)
Free practice 3: 1st (1min 39.476secs). 27 laps
Qualifying: 2nd (1min 37.593secs average)
Anthony Davidson (TS050 HYBRID #8): “It’s been a good day and great to see both TOYOTAs on the front row. It’s been a long time since we saw that. It was a great performance and a testament to the team’s hard work over the winter in Higashi-Fuji and Cologne so a big thanks to them. Now we have the hard work tomorrow when we expect a tougher challenge.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS050 HYBRID #8): “It has been a very positive day for the team. It was an amazing lap from Kamui; I don’t know how he managed it. Personally it was nice to drive in qualifying, especially here at Silverstone which is one of my favourite circuits. Tomorrow is the day that counts so that has been our focus all weekend. We have been quite happy with the long runs so hopefully we are strong.”