TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will start the 6 Hours of Mexico from the second row of the grid after a close but ultimately frustrating qualifying session for the fifth round of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
In front of an enthusiastic crowd, the #7 TS050 HYBRID of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López took the fight to the Porsches. They narrowly missed the front row by 0.092secs and will start third.
Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima will line up fourth in their #8 TS050 HYBRID after a more challenging qualifying session.
Qualifying started five minutes earlier than planned due to the threat of rain, but both TS050 HYBRIDs waited a few moments before hitting the track, in order to have a clear circuit ahead.
Kazuki in the #8 set the fastest first sector of all on his first lap but had to abandon the effort due to a small error. On his second flying lap, with the tyres no longer at their best, he put the car fourth.
Mike set only one lap in the #7, which has been on pole three times already this season, and earned second position before handing over to José María, who was narrowly behind the #1 Porsche after his first flying lap. He tried another attempt with fresh tyres but was blocked by an LMP2 car, taking away the chance of a front-row start.
The team chose a different tyre compound for Sébastien’s qualifying laps but that did not pay off and he could not improve on fourth, finishing with an average time 0.816secs behind the pole position-winning #2 Porsche.
Sunday’s race begins at midday local time and both cars will target an improved result to close the gap in the manufacturers’ World Championship, which currently stands at 40.5 points on leaders Porsche.
TS050 HYBRID #7 (Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, José María López)
Free practice 2: 3rd (1min 26.681secs), 41 laps
Free practice 3: 3rd (1min 26.069secs), 30 laps
Qualifying: 3rd (1min 24.802secs average)
Mike Conway (TS050 HYBRID #7): “I was quite happy with my lap. We were just a bit down on each sector and that was enough to keep us off the front row. The guys did a great job, made some positive changes from third practice and made a good step. I am happy with how the car feels. We have to see what happens in the race; we need to be smart especially if we get the mixed weather conditions as predicted.”
José María López (TS050 HYBRID #7): “Our qualifying speed was a bit better than we expected because we had struggled a bit during free practice and Porsche looked strong. We gave them a headache today and were close to the front row after a fantastic effort from the team. It was a pity on my last lap the LMP2 driver backed off and didn’t look in his mirror. I think I could have improved and maybe got on the front row.”
TS050 HYBRID #8 (Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson, Kazuki Nakajima)
Free practice 2: 4th (1min 27.320secs), 45 laps
Free practice 3: 1st (1min 25.789secs), 29 laps
Qualifying: 4th (1min 25.378secs average)
Sébastien Buemi (TS050 HYBRID #8): “The other three cars had the same specification tyre so we tried something different and it wasn’t quite right for the conditions on my lap. It didn’t work out for us today but the race is long and we will keep fighting. Qualifying is only a small part of the weekend; our main job is on Sunday.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS050 HYBRID #8): “I made a mistake on my first attempt and the tyre wasn’t at its best when I did my timed lap. So I am a bit disappointed with my qualifying. For the race we have to see what the weather will do but we will give everything we can to score a lot of points for the World Championship.”