TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will start the 6 Hours of Nürburgring from the third row after a disappointing qualifying session in wet conditions for the fourth round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
Intermittent rain throughout the day created changing track conditions and a challenge for the teams, both in terms of tyre choice and track conditions.
The #6 TS050 HYBRID of Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi was the lead TOYOTA in fifth place, one ahead of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima in the #5.
Light rain just before the green flag meant Sébastien and Kamui started on the hybrid intermediate tyre, but a dry line soon emerged and both cars headed for the pits after just one flying lap for a set of dry specification Michelins.
Anthony and Stéphane took over and improved the lap times by around two seconds before Sébastien and Kamui returned to their respective cars.
With the WEC grid decided on the average of each driver’s fastest lap, Sébastien and Kamui needed some dry running to improve on the laps they achieved with hybrid intermediate tyres.
Both did improve significantly but the rain returned on their flying laps and gradually grew in intensity, meaning neither could improve their car’s grid position for the race, in which TOYOTA expects to be much more competitive.
TS050 HYBRID #5 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)
Free practice 3: 2nd (1min 41.293secs), 28 laps
Qualifying: 6th (1min 40.748secs average)
Anthony Davidson: “It was a difficult qualifying in mixed conditions. The car was difficult to drive. I only had one lap and got traffic, but we were too far from the competition for that to have made any big difference. The race is what counts and we are comfortable with our race pace.”
Sébastien Buemi: “That was a very strange qualifying due to the weather. Obviously we had to compromise our qualifying performance in terms of set-up and tyres because we are focusing on the race. That explains some of the gap but it’s still a bit disappointing.”
TS050 HYBRID #6 (Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi)
Free practice 3: 6th (1min 42.309secs), 30 laps
Qualifying: 5th (1min 40.639secs average)
Stéphane Sarrazin: “The track conditions were very tricky. I went out on slicks and it was still a bit damp so I couldn’t push to the maximum. We knew it would be difficult for us in qualifying; on race pace we are in the game but not on one lap. We have targeted the race and we have good balance so I’m optimistic.”
Kamui Kobayashi: “It was not easy in those conditions but we know qualifying is not a strong point for us. We have focused on the race set-up so the third row was all we could do today. I think the race should be a different story and we expect to be stronger. We will see.”