Toyota Racing will start the Six Hours of the Circuit of the Americas from third position after an unfortunate qualifying session for the fifth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Their chances were compromised when Stéphane’s stint was effectively ended after just two timed laps when he was hit by another car.
This season’s qualifying format requires two drivers from each car to set a minimum of two flying laps each. The grid is decided by the combined average of each driver’s fastest two laps.
So, when the #32 LMP2 car hit the rear of the TS030 HYBRID under braking and pushed Stéphane into a spin, a crucial opportunity to improve that average was denied to him.
The contact caused minor damage to the bodywork, prematurely ending Stéphane’s stint and necessitating a rapid change of rear end in pit lane.
Sébastien took over the wheel and showed the potential of the TS030 HYBRID during his four-timed-lap stint.
Earlier, all three drivers reacquainted themselves with the circuit in dry conditions during final practice, with Sébastien setting the fastest time for the #8 during the one-hour session, the third quickest overall.
TS030 HYBRID #8 (Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi, Stéphane Sarrazin)
Free practice 3: 3rd (1min 49.677secs), 25 laps
Qualifying: 3rd (1min 49.696secs average)
Sébastien Buemi: “I’m disappointed with how things went today. We were hoping to be closer to the front, but we were not helped by the incident early in qualifying. I was able to improve my lap times as the session went on, even though the tyre degradation came into play. This could be a good sign for the race but it will be a challenge tomorrow. We will push as hard as possible and do everything we can to fight at the front.”
Stéphane Sarrazin: “I could only do two laps as unfortunately I was hit by an LMP2 car very early in the session. I took my normal line and braked in the normal place but was hit from behind. It was the same car which hit us in Sao Paulo so it’s surprising that this happened again. It was really a pity but luckily the damage was only minor and Sébastien was able to do his qualifying laps. We start third and tomorrow is the important day so we concentrate on that now; we will have a tough race but we will give our maximum.”