TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will start its home race from pole position after a dramatic afternoon saw top spot change twice due to stewards’ decisions in qualifying for the 6 Hours of Fuji, the fourth round of the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season.
Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López initially earned pole position in their #7 TS050 HYBRID but were stripped of that honour, and the World Championship point it brings, due to a pit lane speeding violation.
As he came into the pits following his flying lap, José did not correctly engage the speed limiter before the pit lane entrance, meaning he entered the pit lane 8.7km/h too quickly, causing his lap to be cancelled 90 minutes after the session.
That elevated the #8 of World Championship leaders Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso to pole position ahead of the #1 Rebellion, which was 0.711secs slower. The #7 will start from eighth place, at the back of the LMP1 grid.
The #8 car had already suffered drama of its own during the session. Fernando set the fastest lap of the weekend so far before handing over to Sébastien, who appeared to have earned pole position only for his lap to be deleted moments later as a result of a track limits violation.
Despite disappointment at missing out on a third consecutive all-TOYOTA front row, the team remains determined to reward its loyal home fans with a one-two victory in Sunday’s race, which begins at 11am local time.
Kamui Kobayashi (TS050 HYBRID #7): “It’s really disappointing to lose pole position, particularly here at Fuji Speedway. The team did a great job all through the week and the car felt great today, much better than on Friday. We never give up and we will try to have a strong performance in the race for the team and for all the fans who are supporting us.”
José María López (TS050 HYBRID #7): “It happened and from my side I have learned from this and will avoid a similar situation in the future. My biggest mistake is not reporting the issue because I had a little doubt. I didn’t know it could affect my lap time, which had been completely legal. If I knew that I would have reported it and for sure we would have done another lap but I will learn from this. It’s a pity but there is still a long race ahead of us.”
Sébastien Buemi (TS050 HYBRID #8): “This is not exactly the way you would like to have a pole position but the only thing that makes me feel better is that on the track we had the fastest lap and had one lap taken away for track limits which I felt was a little bit harsh. It’s a pity because the #7 guys had done a good job. Now we focus on our race like always and see what we can achieve tomorrow.”
Fernando Alonso (TS050 HYBRID #8): “It’s disappointing for the team to lose the one-two in qualifying and it’s a pity for Mike, Kamui and José. We had pole position for a moment and then lost it following the track limits issue and now we have pole again. It will be a long race on Sunday, particularly as we saw the non-hybrid LMP1 teams are very close to us, but we will try to win in front of our home crowd.”