TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will bring the curtain down on the 2015 World Endurance Championship season from the third row of the grid in the Six Hours of Bahrain after this evening’s qualifying session.
Qualifying for the eighth and final race of the season, which begins in daylight and ends in darkness, was a familiar story for the pair of TS040 HYBRIDs; for the fifth consecutive race they will start from fifth and sixth.
The #1 TS040 HYBRID of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima again won the inter-team battle, taking fifth place 0.304secs clear of Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway in the #2.
Qualifying took place in darkness on a warm evening, with air temperatures of 24°C, although the start was delayed by 20 minutes after the circuit lights went out during the preceding GT session.
When the LMP1 and LMP2 cars hit the track, Anthony, who won the drivers’ World Championship alongside Sébastien in Bahrain last year, was at the wheel of the #1. In the #2, Alex started his last-ever qualifying session on a track where he took his most recent victory 12 months ago.
Qualifying in WEC requires two drivers from each car to set a minimum of one flying lap, with the average of both drivers’ fastest lap deciding the grid. Anthony completed just one flying lap before handing over to Kazuki in fifth place while sixth-placed Alex had two attempts prior to Stéphane’s stint.
The gap to the cars in front was too big to bridge so the order did not change with Kazuki and Stéphane in their cars. At the end of the session, the #1 TS040 HYBRID was 2.422secs behind the pole position-winning #17 Porsche.
TS040 HYBRID #1 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)
Free practice 3: 5th (1min 43.794secs), 29 laps
Qualifying: 5th (1min 42.158secs average)
Anthony Davidson: “I feel today we extracted everything from the car in qualifying; the lap times are a realistic representation of where we are. I was happy with my lap and Kazuki did a good job as well. It is going to be challenging to manage the tyre wear tomorrow, but I think this is one of our strengths as a team. We will see what we can do and we will be pushing as hard as ever.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “It was a tight qualifying in terms of the battle between the two TOYOTAs. We had a good car for qualifying and Anthony did a very impressive lap time; I couldn’t match him on the last sector. Tomorrow is going to be a different story in the race in terms of grip and car balance. I think it will be an interesting fight between car #1 and car #2 so we will try to enjoy it.”
TS040 HYBRID #2 (Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway)
Free practice 3: 6th (1min 44.051secs), 24 laps
Qualifying: 6th (1min 42.462secs average)
Alex Wurz: “The interesting thing today is that the gap between all the TOYOTA drivers is exactly the effect of the weight difference between us all. My lap was really good; I could maybe have gone 0.05secs quicker but I am happy. We had too much understeer in the car so we couldn’t carry the speed through the corners but it wasn’t a major issue. It was nice to have a go with new tyres and low fuel and now I am looking forward to the race. It will be hot and windy tomorrow so set-up will be a compromise because the race is two thirds in darkness. Let’s see who finds the best compromise. We want to race car #1; that’s our target.”
Stéphane Sarrazin: “It was very special today to be part of Alex’s last qualifying session. I didn’t push enough on the new tyres; I was a bit too conservative. But the car is good for the race with the package we have so let’s see what we can do. I hope we can have a strong race for Alex. We will all be pushing for that because he deserves it. He is a very good guy and a great team-mate.”