Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi, in the #7 TS050 HYBRID they share with José María López, took pole position with a 1min 54.583secs average of their fastest laps during a qualifying session which was delayed by 45 minutes due to two red flag periods.
Fernando Alonso took part in his first WEC qualifying session alongside team-mate Kazuki Nakajima and they completed a TOYOTA clean sweep. They will start second on the grid in the #8 TS050 HYBRID shared with Sébastien Buemi.
That result means TOYOTA will start from pole position for the 15th time as it attempts to win a fourth consecutive WEC race, and 17th in total.
Mike and Fernando were first in their respective cars, eventually setting a lap time after a five minute delay caused by a stranded LMP1 car. But Kamui and Kazuki had to wait even longer to set their lap times; a heavy accident for another LMP1 car took 40 minutes to clear but they kept their concentration and ultimately the #7 car took pole position by 0.379secs.
The point earned for pole position gives TOYOTA GAZOO Racing an early advantage in the teams’ World Championship standings, with a clear target to strengthen that position in Saturday’s race, which begins at 1.30pm local time.
Mike Conway (TS050 HYBRID #7): “They were a strong couple of laps between me and Kamui. The car felt good on my lap so I just let it do its thing really. It’s nice to get that point on the board for pole position and to start from the front row. Our team-mates kept us honest as always and it’s great for the team to be one-two in qualifying; we’ll try to convert it into a win tomorrow.”
Kamui Kobayashi (TS050 HYBRID #7): “Thanks to all the team for their hard work over the winter. They did a great job today and Mike set a really strong lap time. We are in different situation compared to last year but we worked hard to become stronger and we have shown this in qualifying. But the race is most important so that is our main focus now.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS050 HYBRID #8): “It was a bit of a tricky qualifying with the long delays. I made a small mistake in first sector but that was my only regret. The car felt good to drive but we believe we can still fine-tune it for the race. We need to maximise the car because it’s going to be a challenge, especially to look after the tyres. It’s going to be a long race but this is a good start to the season for the team.”
Fernando Alonso (TS050 HYBRID #8): “It was a good qualifying session and I enjoyed every single corner. I’m happy with the lap and the experience. There was a little bit of lap time to find, especially in the middle sector where I had some moments in turn eight and nine but I put a clean lap together then Kazuki did a great job with his lap. One-two for the team in the first qualifying of the season is good. There are a long six hours ahead of us but definitely we want to stay at the front.”