Toyota Racing’s preparations for the Le Mans 24 Hours stepped up a level with the opening practice and qualifying sessions at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
After several days of build-up, track action for the third round of the FIA World Endurance Championship began for the #7 and #8 TS030 HYBRID cars.
The #7 driver line-up of Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima finished this week’s opening qualifying in fourth place, while the #8 crew of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Stéphane Sarrazin was sixth.
The final grid positions will be decided after Thursday’s final two qualifying sessions.
Today’s work began on a dry track for the only practice session of the week, which saw the #7 evaluating aerodynamic set-up while the #8 focused on mechanical options.
A rain shower soon after the hour mark affected the normal programme while two red flags cut short running time, although all TOYOTA Racing drivers managed a stint.
With the 24-hour race approaching, the team’s clear focus for qualifying was to refine the set-up of the two TS030 HYBRIDs to give it the best chance of a strong result come Sunday afternoon.
As darkness fell at Le Mans, Kazuki and Stéphane started the session in warm and dry conditions, setting what would turn out to be the fastest laps of the session.
Nicolas and Anthony had the second stint in their respective TS030 HYBRIDs. Sébastien took the #8 but suffered a driveline problem soon after and stopped on track.
At the same time, a separate accident brought out the red flags and caused sufficient damage to the crash barriers to prevent the session restarting.
Thursday will see the final two qualifying sessions (19.00-21.00 and 22.00-00.00). The race starts on Saturday at 15.00.
TS030 HYBRID #7 (Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre, Kazuki Nakajima) Free practice 1: 5th (3min 30.866secs), 40 laps Qualifying 1: 4th (3min 26.676secs), 17 laps
Alex Wurz: “Due to the red flag I didn’t drive in qualifying. I drove in free practice in wet conditions and only got two laps in the dry. So it’s difficult to say a lot. We are looking at the big picture and the race will tell the full story. We have to make sure we do everything perfectly for the 24 hours, which means tomorrow we will also be looking more towards race set-up.”
Nicolas Lapierre: “It was a bit disappointing in terms of the classification. The gap is more than we wanted but we spent our time looking at set-up for the race and we have made some steps. The red flag didn’t help us because we needed track time to test various items after rain on the test day disrupted our programme. We still have some items to analyse so we are looking for a full session tomorrow with both cars to get ourselves ready for the race.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “I had a good run in qualifying but we want to show more performance. We are still working to maximise our performance for the whole race more than the qualifying. There is more work to do but it was a constructive day and we know where we need to improve. We will be concentrating on our race because that is what matters.”
TS030 HYBRID #8 (Anthony Davidson, Stéphane Sarrazin, Sébastien Buemi) Free practice 1: 4th (3min 29.573secs), 39 laps Qualifying 1: 6th (3min 30.841secs), 10 laps
Anthony Davidson: “Basically we have a good feeling in the car. It is just a pity the lap times are not there because the car feels good. The lap time is not where we want to be but it’s a long race week. You want a car which lets you drive with confidence in traffic and in every condition, and that’s what we have. This is the beginning of the week so we stay positive and look forward to tomorrow.”
Stéphane Sarrazin: “We were looking towards the race rather than qualifying today. It is a pity we did not get a chance to do any real qualifying run but the car feels good, it is stable and we all like the balance. I am confident we have a good set up for the race. Naturally it is not great to stop during the session but it’s better to have this problem on Wednesday rather than in the race.”
Sébastien Buemi: “I basically did 10 corners in qualifying; I got to Indianapolis then I had the issue. So I can’t say much about the car this evening, but my team-mates were happy with the general feeling. Unfortunately we had the driveline issue but the red flag came out at the same time so we didn’t actually lose any laps as a result.”
Toyota Motorsport GmbH