The #8 TS050 HYBRID of Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima showed the speed to earn pole but were twice delayed by traffic and finished third fastest, 0.195secs away from the leading Porsche #2.
Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López in the #7 TS050 HYBRID suffered a difficult session on the wet track and will start fourth.
All three practice sessions had already been disrupted by wet weather, with Friday’s second practice particularly affected. That meant the team began qualifying having completed only around half the expected number of practice laps.
Rain started to fall a few minutes before the start of qualifying so both José and Kazuki used wet Michelin tyres for their flying laps. Kazuki in the #8 was delayed by another car so he narrowly missed the fastest time while the #7 struggled for pace.
With pole position still up for grabs Sébastien lost time when held up by a Porsche, at the beginning of his lap. He stayed out and valiantly tried to improve his position but the tyres were past their best and he ended up third.
Despite the disappointing result, the pace of the #8 car offers encouragement that TOYOTA can challenge for a fifth victory at Fuji Speedway on Sunday.
TS050 HYBRID #7 (Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, José María López)
Free practice 3: 4th (1min 36.881secs), 28 laps
Qualifying: 4th (1min 36.630secs average)
Kamui Kobayashi (TS050 HYBRID #7): “It wasn’t a great qualifying for us; we expected a lot better. Since the morning we have been struggling with the car so we need to find the issue and improve it for the race. It’s a bit strange; we need to work out what happened.”
José María López (TS050 HYBRID #7): “I thought I did a good lap but we were off the pace. We changed the tyre spec for Kamui but he only improved a bit so we need to find the problem and solve it for tomorrow. I’m not worried about starting fourth as long as the car is strong for the race but it’s disappointing to see the gap to the sister car.”
TS050 HYBRID #8 (Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson, Kazuki Nakajima)
Free practice 3: 1st (1min 35.414secs), 28 laps
Qualifying: 3rd (1min 35.355secs average)
Sébastien Buemi (TS050 HYBRID #8): “It’s really a pity because we had the pace to go for pole. Unfortunately I had traffic with the Porsche on the first lap when the tyres were at their best and because of that we couldn’t challenge for pole. I think we had the fastest car today but couldn’t show it, so I’m disappointed. But I’m looking forward to tomorrow because I’m sure we’ll be in the fight.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS050 HYBRID #8): “It was a close session. Like Sébastien, I had traffic on my lap which cost me time and at the end of the day it kept us off the front row. It’s a pity because I think we could have got pole position but that’s life. We will try our best tomorrow to give our home fans the win we are all fighting for.”