TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will start the second round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship from third and fifth on the grid after a positive qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium today.

The all-new TS050 HYBRID, which features a 2.4litre turbo-charged engine and powerful 8MJ hybrid system, showed some of its potential with an improved performance in qualifying for the WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.

On a sunny afternoon, with air temperatures reaching 22°C, Stéphane Sarrazin and Kamui Kobayashi took the #6 TS050 HYBRID, which they share with Mike Conway, to third on the grid, behind the two Porsches.

Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima, who drive the #5 alongside Sébastien Buemi, clocked an average lap time just 0.052secs slower than their sister car but will start from fifth place after a closely-fought session.

However, the team’s focus all weekend has been on race pace rather than qualifying performance and, following encouraging practice results, it expects to fight for another podium finish to preserve its lead in the manufacturers’ World Championship.

TS050 HYBRID #5 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)
Free practice 3: 5th (1min 59.440secs), 27 laps
Qualifying: 5th (1min 57.750secs average)

Anthony Davidson: “I didn’t extract the best out of the tyres on my qualifying lap. It was my first flying lap on new tyres this week and the grip surprised me. It was good to be fighting with the Audis, but Porsche were out of reach in qualifying trim. I think tomorrow we can be closer and I hope we will be in the fight.”

Kazuki Nakajima: “The car was strong and the lap time was very close to third position. We have made a real improvement in terms of car set-up and I am happy with that; it was very nice to drive. We need to look at the little details where we can find more lap time for tomorrow. I hope to have a clean race so we can show what we can do.”

TS050 HYBRID #6 (Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi)
Free practice 3: 3rd (1min 58.327secs), 26 laps
Qualifying: 3rd (1min 57.698secs average)

Stéphane Sarrazin: “I am really happy with our qualifying performance. We showed the TS050 is a big step forward compared to last year and we expect to be challenging tomorrow. This team does not give up and we have found some positive improvements. We have good tyre management which is a positive point so I’m looking forward to the race.”

Kamui Kobayashi: “That was my first qualifying session in LMP1 and it went well. I think we have made a strong start to our Spa race weekend but race day is the important one. Actually, I feel more confident of our race pace than our qualifying performance. I have been happy throughout the week with the car balance; I think we will have an interesting race.”

Free practice 3 results:
1st #1 Porsche (Bernhard/Webber/Hartley) 1min 56.465secs 27 laps
2nd #2 Porsche (Dumas/Jani/ Lieb) +1.698secs 23 laps
3rd #6 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1.862secs 26 laps
4th #7 Audi (Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer) +2.511secs 21 laps
5th #5 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +2.975secs 27 laps
6th #8 Audi (di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis) +3.830secs 20 laps

Qualifying results:
1st #1 Porsche (Bernhard/Webber/Hartley) 1min 55.793secs
2nd #2 Porsche (Dumas/Jani/ Lieb) +0.797secs
3rd #6 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1.905secs
4th #8 Audi (di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis) +1.923secs
5th #5 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1.957secs
6th #7 Audi (Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer) +2.122secs