Disappointment for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will start the second round of the World Endurance Championship from sixth and seventh after a dissatisfying qualifying session for the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium today.
World Champions Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi, racing alone in the #1 TS040 HYBRID after Kazuki Nakajima was hurt in a practice accident, took sixth on the grid in today's 25-minute qualifying.
The #2 car of Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway was one place further back, leaving the team determined to achieve a better result in the race.
As a result of Kazuki's accident yesterday, the #1 crew worked extremely hard to change the monocoque in time for today's action, giving Anthony and Sébastien the chance to prepare for qualifying during final practice earlier this afternoon.
With yesterday's two sessions both taking place in heavy rain, the team had no information about dry-weather set-up at Spa so had a busy final practice to get ready for qualifying and the race.
Qualifying began with overcast skies and mild temperatures. Anthony and Mike were at the wheel of the #1 and #2 before handing over to Sébastien and Stéphane respectively for their flying laps.
A relatively uneventful, and disappointing, session for TOYOTA saw both cars complete their runs a few minutes before the chequered flag, with the #1 lying 2.720secs off pole and #2 sitting 3.162secs behind on average.
Away from the track, Kazuki remains in hospital in Verviers recovering from the fractured vertebra sustained in yesterday's high-speed accident. All drivers and most team members have visited him and found him to be in good spirits, with a keen focus on the events at Spa and a determination to return as soon as possible.
TS040 HYBRID #1 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)
Free practice 3: 7th (1min 59.850secs), 20 laps
Qualifying: 6th (1min 57.487secs average)
Anthony Davidson: "First of all a big thanks to the mechanics for their hard work in swapping to the spare chassis. Unfortunately it has been a difficult day for us in qualifying. We did the best we could in terms of set-up and the car felt good, so I'm disappointed by the lap times. Tomorrow is a different day. Last year we missed out on pole by quite a margin and still won the race. We'll see how tomorrow unfolds but right now it hurts."
Sébastien Buemi: "We did the best we could and we will see what tomorrow brings there is not much more to say. We were slower in qualifying than the competition which is not a surprise, but we are further away than expected. Regardless of the disappointment, I want to say thank you to the crew who put in a huge effort to change to the back-up monocoque. Let's see what we can do with it tomorrow."
TS040 HYBRID #2 (Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway)
Free practice 3: 6th (1min 59.630secs), 22 laps
Qualifying: 7th (1min 57.929secs average)
Stéphane Sarrazin: "Qualifying was difficult, particularly because I had traffic on two of my flying laps. I hope we can have a good race and move up the order we will see. We want to score big points but we need a good strategy to improve our position. We are very good on our tyres so degradation could make a difference. We'll stay positive and do our best in the race."
Mike Conway: "Obviously there is quite a big gap to the others which is disappointing. I didn't put my best lap together and left too much on the table. There was more lap time to be gained but ultimately I don't think it would have changed much in terms of the positions. I don't know what to expect tomorrow we'll fight hard and maybe the weather can do us a favour."
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing at Spa-Francorchamps:
2013 #7: Qualifying 4th Race DNF (mechanical). #8: Qualifying: 5th Race 4th.
2014 #7: Qualifying 4th Race 3rd. #8: Qualifying: 2nd Race 1st.
High-resolution copyright-free photos are available for editorial use at www.toyotahybridracing.com/media.
About TOYOTA Racing in the World Endurance Championship:
TOYOTA first competed in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) in 1983, marking the start of a long period of participation in endurance racing. Since 1985, TOYOTA cars have raced in 16 Le Mans 24 Hours races, achieving a best result of second place on four occasions (1992, 1994, 1999 and 2013). TOYOTA entered the revived WEC in 2012, as TOYOTA Racing, with its first hybrid LMP1 car, the TS030 HYBRID, which won five of the 14 races it entered over two seasons. It was succeeded in 2014 by the four-wheel-drive TS040 HYBRID, which won its debut race and subsequently the 2014 drivers' and manufacturers' World Championships. They were designed and built by TOYOTA Motorsport GmbH (TMG), where the race team is based. TMG is the former home of TOYOTA's World Rally and Formula 1 works teams, and was responsible for design and operation of TOYOTA's TS020 Le Mans car in 1998-99. TMG now combines motorsport participation with work as a high-performance engineering services provider to third party companies, as well as the TOYOTA family.