Disrupted qualifying for TOYOTA Racing
Qualifying for the Le Mans 24 Hours began with a curtailed session at the Circuit de la Sarthe which left TOYOTA Racing on the provisional second row.
A red flag with just under an hour to go of the two-hour qualifying session brought a premature end to the evening's action and denied the team a chance to complete its planned programme.
The two TS040 HYBRIDs were lying third and fourth respectively, with Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima in the #7 and Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre and Sébastien Buemi in the #8.
Qualifying started at dusk with Alex and Anthony at the wheel for a programme of set-up optimisation with a view to extracting maximum race performance.
The starting grid for the 82nd Le Mans 24 Hours is decided by the fastest single lap of each car from any of the three qualifying sessions, meaning the pole position will be decided at midnight on Thursday with the end of third qualifying.
First qualifying allowed precious little on-track action and gave an incomplete picture as to the team's relative performance. An early 20-minute red flag set the tone and allowed a driver switch to Stéphane and Nicolas.
Just after the hour mark, Stéphane's stint came to a premature end early into the #7 car's 13th lap when a loss of engine oil pressure caused him to stop on track.
A separate incident at the same time caused another red flag and ended the session. That meant Kazuki and Sébastien did not get a chance to drive.
Earlier in the day, free practice allowed the team to prepare for qualifying. Both cars had an extensive task list of set-up and tyre evaluations but were interrupted by three red flags following on-track incidents.
Nevertheless, all six drivers completed productive stints, racking up 85 laps, around 1160km, between them whilst showing encouraging performance in finishing first and third, with the #8 and #7 respectively.
Qualifying continues on Thursday with a pair of further two-hour sessions (19.00 & 22.00). The race starts at 15.00 on Saturday.
TS040 HYBRID #7 (Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, Kazuki Nakajima)
Free practice 1: 3rd (3min 24.291secs), 42 laps
Qualifying 1: 3rd (3min 25.313 secs), 12 laps
Alex Wurz: "It was an eventful first day. I am glad that Loic Duval seems to be okay after his accident and will be back soon. In terms of our work on the car, we went through the programme but obviously there was limited time due to the red flags. We had some good tests and interesting results. Now it is a matter of studying the data and making the right choices for tomorrow."
Stéphane Sarrazin: "The car felt really good. Unfortunately we had the issue in qualifying but it's better today than in the race and at least we didn't lose any track time compared to the others. All three drivers are really happy with the car, the balance is good. We need to test a few things tomorrow to improve it but it's not been a bad day."
Kazuki Nakajima: "In the end it was a positive day despite what happened at the end of qualifying. We had good pace in the first session. We had a good long run and a tyre test in free practice. Then in the evening session unfortunately I didn't drive but still we have tomorrow. The performance of the car seems to be there, we just need to put it all together."
TS040 HYBRID #8 (Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre, Sébastien Buemi)
Free practice 1: 1st (3min 23.652secs), 43 laps
Qualifying 1: 4th (3min 25.410secs), 12 laps
Anthony Davidson: "The session never really got going, which was a pity. But at least we got to try some important set-up items on our car which gave us some useful data. We ticked another box and we can put that to rest. We look forward to tomorrow now. The car is feeling pretty good to drive and the final two qualifying sessions should be fun there is a long way to go and the competition looks strong."
Nicolas Lapierre: "That was a difficult session. We couldn't do many laps but it is the same for everyone. The car felt strong and we are ready for the rest of qualifying. On the long run the car seems quite competitive but it is difficult to assess our competition because we did only a few laps in qualifying. We will have a better view tomorrow."
Sébastien Buemi: "Finally we are back on the circuit because it has been a long wait since the test. Obviously it did not go as expected, especially with the crash of Loic Duval and we all hope he will be back very soon. The red flags meant we didn't drive much in qualifying and I didn't get the chance to drive in the night which is a bit disappointing. There is still a long weekend ahead but we are quite confident we have a good package."
French and German translations of this press release will be available shortly on www.toyotahybridracing.com, where copyright-free photos are also available for editorial use.