TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will start the sixth round of the 2019-2020 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) from second and third on the grid after a solid qualifying session for the Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps today.
The #8 TS050 HYBRID of Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley took a front row position, claiming second place, with an average time over two laps 0.840secs behind the #1 Rebellion in pole position.
World Championship leaders Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López are third on the grid in the #7 TS050 HYBRID, which has the most success handicap of all cars this week, after a clean session, 1.493secs down on the pole position time.
Qualifying represented the final action on a long day of preparation for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, with two practice sessions taking place earlier in the day as a result of the modified timetable, and it took place on a warm evening, with air temperatures milder than those experienced earlier in the week.
Using the low-downforce aerodynamic kit which will also be utilised at Le Mans next month, Mike and Kazuki were straight into action when qualifying began. Kazuki’s first lap almost put him on provisional pole, but he was just 0.004secs shy of the #1 Rebellion, which improved on its second flying lap.
With the focus firmly on the race, neither TS050 HYBRID took new tyres at the driver change, effectively stepping out of the fight for pole position in order to increase the opportunities over Saturday’s six-hour contest. Just like their team-mates, Kamui and Brendon were evenly matched and completed a trouble-free session.
With Spa expected to live up to its reputation for unpredictable weather during the race, the team will be ready for all conditions with the target of winning in Belgium for the fourth consecutive year as preparations for the Le Mans 24 Hours intensifies.
Mike Conway (TS050 HYBRID #7): “We were expecting third due to the success handicap but it felt like a pretty average lap because the balance was quite difficult on new tyres. I am a bit disappointed as I felt we could have got more out of the car. But it is a long race and that’s what counts; we will do our best to get through it cleanly and see how many points we can take away from here.”
Kamui Kobayashi (TS050 HYBRID #7): “This result is what we expected before the session so it was no surprise. We tried to improve the car but with the success handicap it’s difficult to judge if we did a good job or not. After six months without racing I enjoyed a one-lap qualifying; it’s always a fun moment. I hope we will be closer in the race and we will keep fighting to defend our lead in the World Championship.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS050 HYBRID #8): “It was a solid qualifying from our car crew. I am happy with my lap and also the car set-up but the biggest challenge is of course the race. Here at Spa we have a lot of tyre degradation and the balance changes throughout the stint so we have to be ahead of that; it’s not easy. We need to keep our race clean and get everything right even if the weather could be a challenge.”
Brendon Hartley (TS050 HYBRID #8): “We knew on paper that we had the pace for second place due to the success handicap because Rebellion had the edge. We elected to use just one set of tyres which was a strategic move for the race. Kazuki did a very good lap, quite close to the Rebellion, but without the second set of tyres we accepted second. We didn’t want to compromise our race in any way; we go for the big points tomorrow.”