6 Hours of Monza: Qualifying
Magical Monza pole for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will start the 6 Hours of Monza from pole position after an incredibly close qualifying session for the fifth round of the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
Kamui Kobayashi set the fastest ever Hypercar lap of the legendary Italian circuit, 1min 35.358secs, to take pole by just 0.017secs in the #7 GR010 HYBRID he shares with Mike Conway and José María López.
Brendon Hartley completed a successful afternoon for the team by earning third place, only 0.102secs from pole, in the #8 GR010 HYBRID he drives alongside Sébastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa.
Pole position, the team’s third of the season, earned a bonus point in the World Championship which extends its advantage over Ferrari to 19 points with three races remaining.
Another hot summer afternoon saw track temperatures reach 50°C, creating a challenge for drivers and the tyres. Both GR010 HYBRIDs chose the medium compound for qualifying, the softest of the two Michelin options available at Monza.
After a lap to warm the tyres, Kamui and Brendon were immediately in the fight at the top of the timing sheets, taking the provisional front row spots with their first flying laps.
On his second attempt, Kamui lost a fraction of a second at the first chicane but improved his time thanks to a committed drive over the remainder of the lap, which set a new Hypercar benchmark at Monza. That improvement proved crucial when the #50 Ferrari set its best lap a few seconds later and moved into second.
Despite traffic, Brendon also improved on his next run to take second place for the World Championship-leading #8, missing the front row by only 0.085secs. Although both cars attempted further timed laps, the optimum tyre grip had faded and none of the leaders could find further improvements.
With the top seven Hypercars covered by less than half a second in qualifying and more hot temperatures forecast, Sunday’s race promises to be a challenging and exciting contest from the moment the green flags wave at 12.30 CEST.
Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car #7): “Normally for a six-hour race I always say that pole position doesn’t mean anything. But, coming after Le Mans and with the lap times being so close, getting pole today is brilliant. I am very happy. The traffic wasn’t ideal at the beginning, but I managed to get a clear lap. All Hypercars have been so close here, we couldn’t risk any conservative laps, so I was pushing hard. I was happy in the car, although the track temperature was a bit different compared to this morning which was challenging. The race should be even hotter so it will be interesting in terms of tyre strategy. We have worked hard to understand the degradation and find the best solution. We have a great car this weekend and I’m looking forward to the race, especially in front of the Italian fans. It will be a big battle.”
Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8): “It was a very tight session with all the Hypercars and, considering that, we can be somewhat happy with third. The car obviously had the pace for pole, as Kamui showed. He did a good lap and put it all together so congratulations to him. It’s also helpful for the World Championship that he took the point away from our rivals. My lap was a bit compromised because I had another car in front of me on my fastest lap and I lost a bit as when I got too close. But a tenth of a second from pole is nothing and I’m sure everyone out there has a story how they lost a little time here or there. To get both cars into the top three is fantastic and a strong team effort.”
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