TOYOTA GAZOO Racing recorded the fastest lap in qualifying at the 6 Hours of Fuji on the way to third and fourth on the grid for the seventh round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).

Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima in the #5 will be the lead TS050 HYBRID on the grid for Sunday’s race after recording an average time just 0.169secs away from the pole position-winning #8 Audi.

The #6 TS050 HYBRID set the fastest lap of the whole session but, with grid positions decided by the average of two drivers’ fastest laps, Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi will start alongside the sister car on row two.

In what turned out to be TOYOTA’s strongest qualifying of the season so far, Kazuki in the #5 and Stéphane in the #6 were at the wheel for the start. Both recorded two flying laps to put their cars in contention for pole position.

Sébastien and Kamui took their turn, putting on new Michelin tyres in the process as the fight for top spot intensified at the team’s home circuit.

Kamui set the fastest lap of the session with his only flying lap before handing over again to Stéphane. With track conditions improving, the team hoped to improve that car’s average time and earn pole.

It was not to be for either TS050 HYBRID, with Sébastien’s two flying laps falling just short of the best average while Stéphane did not improve his best time. Nevertheless, TOYOTA’s best qualifying since Le Mans gives reason to be optimistic for a strong performance in the race.

TS050 HYBRID #5 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima)

Free practice 3: 1st (1min 24.078secs). 33 laps

Qualifying: 3rd (1min 23.739secs average)

Sébastien Buemi: “That was the best qualifying of the season for us; we have never been so close to pole position with this car so I am really happy. We are within two tenths of pole which shows the progress we made. Now hopefully we can have a really competitive race tomorrow.”

Kazuki Nakajima: “It was a surprisingly exciting qualifying for us and it is the first time for a while that we could really fight for pole position. It was fun and I am happy with the result, which is more than we expected. We still want to improve the set-up for the race when I hope we can reward the Japanese fans for their great support.”

TS050 HYBRID #6 (Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi)

Free practice 3: 4th (1min 24.895secs). 33 laps

Qualifying: 4th (1min 23.781secs average)

Stéphane Sarrazin: “It was nice to be competitive. I made a mistake on my last flying lap; I pushed a bit too much. I was really quick in the first sector and improving the lap time but unfortunately I didn’t finish the lap properly. We are happy with fourth when we are so close to pole. Let’s see what we can do in the race.”

Kamui Kobayashi: “This morning we were struggling a bit with the set-up but the team did a great job to get the best time in qualifying. Unfortunately it was not quite enough for pole position but I think fourth is okay because usually we are stronger in the race, which is of course the most important part of the weekend.”

Free practice 3 results:

1st       #5 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing                1min 24.078secs         33 laps

2nd       #8 Audi (di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis)              +0.422secs                    34 laps

3rd       #2 Porsche (Dumas/Jani/Lieb)                +0.480secs                    27 laps

4th       #6 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing                +0.817secs                 33 laps

5th        #7 Audi (Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer)         +1.235secs                    37 laps

6th        #1 Porsche (Bernhard/Webber/Hartley) +1.545secs                     30 laps
Qualifying results:

1st        #8 Audi (di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis)              1min 23.570secs

2nd       #1 Porsche (Bernhard/Webber/Hartley)   +0.025secs

3rd       #5 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing                +0.169secs

4th       #6 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing                +0.211secs

5th        #7 Audi (Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer)         +0.286secs

6th        #2 Porsche (Dumas/Jani/Lieb)                +0.564secs