Reigning world champion Neel Jani (CH) and Porsche newcomer André Lotterer (DE) achieved pole position for the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) in an action packed qualifying session in Spa-Francorchamps (BE). Due to overtaking traffic, the 919 #2 of Earl Bamber (NZ), Timo Bernhard (DE) and Brendon Hartley (NZ) lost its rhythm which caused problems to boost the full energy power. They will start from fifth on the grid.
“We were very unlucky,” commented Hartley. “I had a good first lap and was looking at P1 but lost the time due to a red flag. When the session resumed, I had traffic then encountered a small systems problem, which prevented me from challenging for pole. Our car was definitely quick enough. We’re confident we have a good car for tomorrow having focussed on race set-up in the three practice sessions.”
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing set the fastest lap but missed out on pole position during an incident-packed qualifying for the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. A red flag, traffic and other dramas entertained the fans during the 25-minute session, in which Stéphane Sarrazin recorded the quickest time. However, with the starting grid determined by the average of two drivers’ best laps, the #9 TS050 HYBRID crew of Stéphane, Nicolas Lapierre and Yuji Kunimoto will start third.
In the #7 TS050 HYBRID, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi earned another front-row start and they will line up in second, alongside the pole position-winning Porsche #1. World Championship leaders Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima, in the #8 TS050 HYBRID, start from fourth after a qualifying session which saw the first two rows of the grid separated by less than a second.
The drama started almost immediately when all cars, including Mike, Kazuki and Stéphane, were forced to abort their first flying laps due to a red flag, caused by an accident for an LMP2 car. When the action resumed, Stéphane delivered a very quick lap to take provisional pole position.
After the driver changes, Kamui showed potential to put the #7 car into top spot but, with only a few metres to go on his first flying lap, the #4 ByKolles spun directly ahead. Kamui reacted well to avoid an impact but his lap time was ruined and, with used tyres, he was not able to take pole position with his next lap.
Nicolas took the wheel of the #9 targeting pole, but a track limits violation and time lost in traffic meant he earned third place at the chequered flag. Sébastien finished the session for the #8, and the Silverstone race winners complete an all-TOYOTA second row in fourth.
Despite a disappointing result today, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is optimistic all three cars can compete for victory in Saturday’s race on a track where the team has finished on the podium twice before in WEC.
Free practice 3 results:
1st #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 1min 55.233secs 27 laps
2nd #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.005secs 27 laps
3rd #9 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.215secs 28 laps
4th #1 Porsche (Jani/Lotterer/Tandy) +1.171secs 24 laps
5th #2 Porsche (Bernhard/Bamber/Hartley) +2.863secs 24 laps
6th #26 G-Drive (Rusinov/Thiriet/Lynn) +6.475secs 25 laps
1st #1 Porsche (Jani/Lotterer/Tandy) 1min 54.097secs
2nd #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.596secs
3rd #9 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.604secs
4th #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.810secs
5th #2 Porsche (Bernhard/Bamber/Hartley) +1.343secs
6th #26 G-Drive (Rusinov/Thiriet/Lynn) +7.161secs