TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will start the penultimate round of the 2018-2019 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) from pole position after another clean sweep of the front row in today’s qualifying for the Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
The #7 TS050 HYBRID of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López earned the bonus point for pole position to reduce the deficit in the drivers’ World Championship to 14 points. World Championship leaders Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso will start the race from second position, making it an all-TOYOTA front row for one of the team’s home races.
In front of many colleagues and their families, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing can secure the teams’ World Championship on Saturday and, despite the typically changeable Spa weather, the team made a perfect start today.
Mike set the fastest lap of the session, having taken over the #7 from Kamui who set the car’s first flying lap. He was tantalisingly close to setting a new LMP1 lap record for Spa, missing the 2017 mark set by Stéphane Sarrazin in a TS050 HYBRID by just 0.025secs.
Kazuki then Sébastien took part in qualifying for the #8 car and recorded an average lap time 0.496secs behind the sister car on their way to second on the grid.
A few rain drops at the very beginning of the session encouraged all cars to hit the track early and record laps before the conditions worsened. The rain held off for the first 15 minutes but a red flag after both TS050 HYBRIDs had completed their laps coincided with a heavier shower and ensured no further lap time improvements were possible.
Weather is expected to be a major factor in the race too, with cold temperatures and rain forecast for Saturday, meaning TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will rely on the information gathered during Thursday’s very wet second practice to maximise the performance of its low-downforce-specification TS050 HYBRID.
Mike Conway (TS050 HYBRID #7): “It was a nice lap. Kamui was quick; he put in a really good lap this morning and again in qualifying. I knew the pressure was on! The car felt strong all through the lap and I was happy to be a little faster at the end. All credit to the engineers and the team for doing such a good job all weekend. Tomorrow is going to be tricky with the conditions so it’s great to start in the right position.”
Kamui Kobayashi (TS050 HYBRID #7): “I am very happy to be on pole again. We knew that during my lap there was a high chance of some rain but we had to take the chance when the track was dry. Unfortunately there were a few rain drops just at the end of my lap, in the last corner, so it wasn’t perfect. But it was enough and Mike did a great job. Thanks to him and the team.”
Sébastien Buemi (TS050 HYBRID #8): “Car #7 did a good job so congratulations to them; they did very well and it’s nice for the team to be one-two on the grid. We are expecting the weather to be completely different tomorrow. We had a taste of this in second practice on Thursday so we are reviewing all the data from that session to prepare ourselves as well as possible; our focus is on the race.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS050 HYBRID #8): “Considering the showers this afternoon, we were fortunate that we could do our laps pretty much on a dry track. It seemed a little bit harder for our car to set a good qualifying time compared to the sister car but for the team a one-two is the perfect result. We expect challenging weather for the race; we need to make sure we finish and grab as many points as possible.”
Images and press release - TGR