TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will start the 6 Hours of Nürburgring from pole position after an impressive performance in qualifying for the fourth round of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).

Kamui Kobayashi and José María López took top spot by 0.154secs from the #2 Porsche for a third pole position in four races for the #7 TS050 HYBRID they share with Mike Conway.

Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima suffered misfortune on their way to fourth place in the #8 TS050 HYBRID while team-mate Sébastien Buemi watched from the garage.

The Nürburgring has not been a happy hunting ground for TOYOTA, with fifth place its best result in the Eifel, but a strong qualifying raises hopes of a best-ever result.

José María took part in his first WEC qualifying and immediately put the #7 in first place while Kazuki did well to avoid a swerving LMP2 car on his opening lap. That incident, which saw the LMP2 driver called to the stewards for dangerous driving, ruined Kazuki’s first flying lap and compromised the qualifying session for the #8.

Kamui, who set a record-beating pole time at Le Mans last month, completed the job for the #7 with another quick time, beating the 2016 pole position average by 1.326secs, while Anthony encountered traffic at the beginning of his lap and took fourth.

The point earned for pole reduces TOYOTA’s gap to Porsche to 23.5 points while the #8 crew stay 17 behind the Porsche #2 line-up in the drivers’ standings. The target for Sunday’s race remains to fight for victory and move closer to the lead of both championships.

TS050 HYBRID #7 (Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, José María López)

Free practice 3: 1st (1min 38.969secs), 26 laps

Qualifying: 1st (1min 38.118secs average)

Kamui Kobayashi (TS050 HYBRID #7): “We will enjoy this moment; qualifying is only a small part of the weekend but it’s nice to be on pole and earn another point for the team. We made continuous improvements during practice after we struggled a bit on Friday. José did a really good lap today and everyone did a great job; this is the result of our team work. Now our focus is on the race.”

José María López (TS050 HYBRID #7): “We needed to catch up a bit after Friday so everyone pushed really hard to improve the set-up and be competitive in qualifying. In final practice we saw the potential and the team did really well to put it together, including a fantastic lap from Kamui. I’m really happy with my first WEC qualifying and pole position so now I can’t wait for the race.”

TS050 HYBRID #8 (Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson, Kazuki Nakajima)

Free practice 3: 2nd (1min 39.396secs), 29 laps

Qualifying: 4th (1min 38.703secs average)

Anthony Davidson (TS050 HYBRID #8): “It was a frustrating qualifying; I wish I could turn back time because the car felt really good but unfortunately going into turn one an LMP2 came out of the pits and blocked me. I couldn’t do anything about that. Maybe my lap wasn’t good enough for pole but it would have been quicker. I think we have a good race car for tomorrow so I’m looking forward to it.”

Kazuki Nakajima (TS050 HYBRID #8): “It was obviously a difficult qualifying but I am happy that I could keep the car in one piece; it could have been a big crash due to the incident with the LMP2. The sister car did a great job and was really quick so congratulations to them. It shows our car is quite strong here so I hope we can be competitive in the race and score good points for the championship.”


Free practice 3 results:

1st #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 1min 38.969sec 26 laps
2nd #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.427secs 29 laps
3rd #2  Porsche (Bernhard/Bamber/Hartley) +1.666secs 32 laps
4th #1 Porsche (Jani/Lotterer/Tandy) +1.798secs 27 laps
5th #31 Rebellion (Canal/Senna/Albuquerque) +7.048secs 27 laps
6th #35 Alpine (Ragues/Negrao/Panciatici)  +7.252secs 27 laps

Qualifying results:

1st #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 1min 38.118sec  
2nd #2 Porsche (Bernhard/Bamber/Hartley) +0.154secs  
3rd #1 Porsche (Jani/Lotterer/Tandy) +0.160secs  
4th #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.585secs  
5th #26 G-Drive (Rusinov/Thiriet/Hanley) +6.883secs  
6th #38 Jackie Chan (Tung/Jarvis/Laurent) +7.079secs