6 Hours of Fuji: Qualifying
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing swept the front-row of the grid for its home race after a dominant qualifying performance in changing conditions at the 6 Hours of Fuji, the penultimate round of the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
Kamui Kobayashi set a new Hypercar lap record of 1min 27.794secs on his way to pole position in the #7 GR010 HYBRID he shares with Mike Conway and José María López. That earned the team’s sixth pole at its home track, and its fourth of the season so far.
Brendon Hartley made it a perfect result in front of Toyota President and TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Europe Chairman Koji Sato, who led the team from the garage, as well as an enthusiastic home crowd. Brendon earned second place in the #8 GR010 HYBRID he drives alongside Sébastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa, 0.624secs behind.
A point for pole position extends TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s World Championship lead over Ferrari to 27 points and brings the #7 crew to within 22 points of their #8 team-mates in the drivers’ standings.
Kamui prepared his challenge for his third pole position of the season by going fastest in a damp final practice in the morning, and the changing weather also affected qualifying. The 15-minute session started on a dry track and both cars took four laps to get their tyres up to temperature.
Kamui’s first flying lap immediately earned provisional pole when he became the first Hypercar driver to lap the historic 4.563km circuit in under 1min 28secs. Brendon set his first flying lap moments later to move into second.
Both drivers attempted a second run and Kamui was on course to improve before light rain intervened. The GR010 HYBRIDs returned to the pits for the final few minutes of the session, safe in the knowledge that track conditions no longer allowed competitive lap times.
With the best possible starting positions achieved, the team will now prepare its strategy for Sunday’s race as it aims for a ninth win at Fuji Speedway to extend an unbeaten run in Japan which dates back to 2016. The race begins at 11am local time (4am CEST).
Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car #7): “It’s great to get a result like this at our home track. This is an important weekend for us and to show our performance like this is very special. Due to the rain, we have had very limited running in dry conditions, but the team did a great job to put everything together for qualifying and I did a pretty good lap on my first attempt. The car felt really strong compared to practice; it improved a lot. I was not expecting a lap time like that, and I was a bit shocked when I saw it. To have a fast car today is a good indication for the race but it will not be easy. We expect it to be a dry race and it could be hot, so we need to judge the tyre choice well and, as always, we need some luck. We are ready, we will work hard, and I hope we can finish one-two.”
Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8): “This is a really good team result. I wasn’t totally happy with the balance on our car, which shifted a bit since final practice when it had felt better. In qualifying I struggled a bit, although we are still second so it’s a strong performance. The rain was starting towards the end and even on my fast lap I had some spots of my windscreen. Qualifying in Hypercar is always a big fight and it was a tricky session for everyone, with the conditions and the challenge to find track position. Kamui did an amazing lap, bravo to him. It’s great to lock out the front row, now let’s go for the win.”
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Fuji front row lock-out for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing