TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will start the 8 Hours of Bahrain from the second row after a close qualifying for the fourth round of the 2019-2020 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season.

World Championship leaders Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley, in the #8 TS050 HYBRID, will start Saturday’s race from third on the grid after setting an average time 0.518secs slower than the pole position #1 Rebellion.

Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López in the #7 TS050 HYBRID completed an all-TOYOTA second row in fourth, a further 0.345secs behind following a very tight session which saw all five LMP1 cars finish within a second of each other.

As expected, qualifying was not easy for the two TS050 HYBRIDs as they battled against heavy success handicap, which reduces hybrid and fuel energy allocations per lap. Brendon’s fastest lap of the session, 1min 42.986secs, was 3.902 slower than the pole position time for WEC’s last visit to Bahrain in 2017.

Mike and Brendon were at the wheel of the #7 and #8 respectively for the first flying laps of the session, on new Michelin tyres. They waited in the pits for a gap in the traffic and took advantage of the clear air on a warm, dry Bahrain evening.

Both car crews fought to get the best possible starting slot but put the priority on race performance, choosing not to fit new tyres for the second flying laps in order to save a set for Saturday’s eight-hour contest. José took over the #7 and was set for a quick lap until losing time at turn eight, leaving Kazuki to earn third place for the #8.

Mike Conway (TS050 HYBRID #7): “I am pretty disappointed with qualifying because I had problems at turn one and eight which basically killed the lap. It wasn’t great but it’s good to see we were pretty close to the non-hybrid cars over one lap. The race is eight hours so that’s been the main target; we have been focused on getting the car right for that.”

José María López (TS050 HYBRID #7): “We were expecting a challenging session because we have to deal with the success handicap. Normally we should have been faster than the sister car considering the handicap but we were behind. I had to do my lap on old tyres; it was going well until turn eight when an LMP2 car went off and put some sand on the track. I lost three or four tenths there, and the chance for third place. The position in qualifying doesn’t matter so much; if we feel confident in the car we can challenge.”

Kazuki Nakajima (TS050 HYBRID #8): “Third is not a bad position for us and it’s better than expected. As a car crew we did a good job and the car was quite competitive considering the handicap. It was a good day and for the race we have some confidence now. I know the other cars are quite fast but it is eight hours so we need to be calm and do our best until the end.”

Brendon Hartley (TS050 HYBRID #8): “I am really happy with my lap. As a car crew, since the beginning of the weekend we did really well to optimise the small amount of boost we have here. We had to change the strategy to get the most out of our car and it worked really well. The car felt very good and we were surprised to be so close to the competition. I have a nice feeling and I think we can fight at the front in the race.”

Free Practice 3 Results
1st #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing  1min 44.285secs   28 laps
2nd #5 Ginetta (Robertson/Hanley/King)   


26 laps
3rd #22 United Autosports (Hanson/Albuquerque/di Resta) +1.685secs 26 laps
4th #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing (Tung/Aubry/Stevens) +1.874secs 30 laps
5th #38 JOTA (Gonzalez/da Costa/Davidson) +2.482secs 29 laps
6th #6 Ginetta (Simpson/Dyson/Smith) +2.601secs 28 laps
8th #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +3.415secs 32 laps


Qualifying results (average lap time)
1st #1 Rebellion (Senna/Menezes/Nato)    1min 42.979secs     
2nd #5 Ginetta (Robertson/Hanley/King)    +0.144secs
3rd #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.518secs
4th #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing  +0.863secs
5th #6 Ginetta (Simpson/Dyson/Smith) +0.908secs
6th #22 United Autosports (Hanson/Albuquerque/di Resta) +2.378secs