8 Hours of Bahrain: Qualifying
Qualifying one-two in Bahrain for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will start the final FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) race of the 2023 season from the front after a clean sweep in qualifying for the 8 Hours of Bahrain.
Brendon Hartley took pole position with a lap of 1min 46.564secs in the #8 GR010 HYBRID he shares with Sébastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa. Kamui Kobayashi completed a one-two for the team, 0.489secs behind in the #7 GR010 HYBRID he drives alongside Mike Conway and José María López.
A second pole of the season for the #8 GR010 HYBRID extends their lead in the title race to 16 points over their #7 team-mates. A podium finish for Sébastien, Brendon and Ryo in Saturday’s race will therefore guarantee they retain the drivers’ World Championship.
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is already confirmed as manufacturers’ World Champions and aims to end the season in style with a seventh successive victory in Bahrain, following the team’s fifth pole, and third front row lock-out, of 2023.
After rain and high winds on Thursday, qualifying began on a warm, dry evening soon after sunset. Both GR010 HYBRIDs chose the medium compound Michelin tyres and waited three minutes in the pits before beginning their qualifying attempts. Brendon, who took pole last year in Bahrain, was the first GR010 HYBRID out on track, followed soon after by Kamui, the Hypercar lap record holder at this circuit.
After warming tyres for two laps, Brendon immediately moved to the top of the timing sheets with his first flying lap while Kamui took provisional second place. Both set faster first sectors on the following lap but, with tyre degradation particularly high in Bahrain, soon headed back to the pits, for the final moments of the 15-minute session.
None of the 10 other Hypercar competitors, on hard compound tyres, could get close to their pace and qualifying finished with Brendon on pole from Kamui, meaning an all GR010 HYBRID front row for Saturday’s race, which starts at 2pm local time (4pm CET).
Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car #7): “Congratulations to Brendon, he did an amazing lap to get pole position. It didn’t work well for me and, to be honest, I did a better lap in practice compared to qualifying. I was a bit surprised with the lap time and I’m not sure what happened. But we are still second on the grid, and it’s an eight-hour race so tomorrow is what really matters. In terms of the championship, it doesn’t change anything for our car. We have to win, so we approach the race in the same way as always. It will be a long race, with a lot of tyre degradation and many things can happen. We will do our best.”
Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8): “I was determined to be on pole, and I am so happy to achieve it. The car felt great. The team did an amazing job to get all the settings right for me. It’s a tricky track for qualifying because you only really get one lap, so everything has to come together. My lap didn’t feel perfect but it was very clean. It is an important pole because of the World Championship point, that’s why the team put a lot of emphasis on qualifying and why we used the medium tyres. The point could be crucial because it means even if car #7 wins, we can finish third and still win the title. But we don’t approach the race any different to normal; we have to go for the victory. The race starts have been action packed this year so starting from pole is the place to be.”
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