Nicolas Lapierre took the wheel of the #7 TS030 HYBRID for the 20-minute qualifying and had difficult track conditions to contend with following heavy rain earlier in the afternoon.
With team-mates Alex Wurz and Kazuki Nakajima watching closely, Nicolas left the pits with intermediate Michelin tyres on a drying track.
But with a dry line emerging he recorded only one flying lap before switching to slick tyres, a decision which proved to be correct as he soon moved to the top of the timesheets.
Despite Nicolas consistently improving his lap times, the #7 slipped to third in the final few minutes, giving TOYOTA Racing a second-row start for its second race in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Nicolas was also at the wheel in this morning’s one-hour final practice, which he shared with Kazuki. The session was disrupted late on when Nicolas was hit by a slower car, causing a puncture and damage to the rear end, which was replaced before qualifying.
Following the Sunday morning warm-up (08.55-09.15) the six-hour race begins at midday with a rolling start.
TS030 HYBRID #7 (Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre, Kazuki Nakajima)
Free practice 3: 3rd (1min 45.492secs), 21 laps
Qualifying: 3rd (1min 44.411secs), 11 laps
Nicolas Lapierre: “Between the start of the practice and the end of the qualifying, we have made a really big step forward. We missed some track time because of our puncture this morning and for sure we can still improve the car. We shouldn’t forget that we have a new aero package and we need time to fully understand it. We worked in this right direction; now the aero balance is much better and the car is handling well in the high-speed corners. We have a good car for race conditions, certainly more than for a qualifying lap. Our first target for the race will be to finish and to achieve our first podium.”
Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President: “Unfortunately at the end of this morning’s practice we missed the chance to fine-tune the set-up with low fuel and new tyres due to the incident in traffic. This made our life harder for qualifying so I still believe we have more pace in the TS030 HYBRID. The team made the right choice to switch to slick tyres early in the session and Nicolas did a good job to push despite the usual traffic problems and tricky track conditions. It’s disappointing not to be on the front row but the race is what counts so we will be pushing hard tomorrow looking for our first podium finish.”