TOYOTA GAZOO Racing earned a historic first-ever Hypercar pole position as the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) began its new era with the new GR010 HYBRID locking out the front row in qualifying for the Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
The #7 Hypercar of World Champions Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López will lead the field away for the first race of the season, in Belgium, after a very impressive lap of 2mins 0.747secs from Kamui. Kazuki completed a perfect session for the team by taking second place, 0.519secs behind, in the #8 car he shares with Sébastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley.
In the first qualifying session under WEC’s new format, which sees one driver per car take part, Kamui also earned a bonus World Championship point for the team and the #7 GR010 HYBRID drivers as TOYOTA GAZOO Racing prepares to challenge for a fifth consecutive victory at Spa.
Almost 15 hours of testing and free practice sessions took place earlier in the week and TOYOTA GAZOO Racing worked tirelessly to fine-tune set-ups and control settings on the GR010 HYBRID, despite losing valuable time with technical issues on the #7.
After close lap times in practice, a highly-anticipated qualifying saw Kamui and Kazuki put the revised set-ups to good use with clean laps at the very start of the session on new Michelin tyres and low fuel, setting lap times which none of their Hypercar or LMP2 rivals could match.
The 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, the first of six in a revised 2021 WEC calendar, begins at 1.30PM CEST on Saturday.
Kamui Kobayashi (GR010 HYBRID #7):
“I am very proud to take the first Hypercar pole. It’s not been an easy road to get here, we have had some problems this week, so it was not the perfect week up to now. But in qualifying we put everything together and the car was really good. I was really happy with my first lap on proper low fuel here so I want to say thank you to the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing team, they have done a really great job with this car. It is a very difficult challenge to build a brand new car to the Hypercar rules and I think to achieve that lap time is pretty good so I am pleased to be a part of the story of this car. I think tomorrow is going to be more challenging, particularly with tyre degradation so there are still a lot of things to overcome. First of all we need to achieve reliability and we need to finish the race cleanly, that is the priority.”
Kazuki Nakajima (GR010 HYBRID #8):
“I have to say my lap wasn’t very clean. The car was quite good and I was happy with the handling on the new tyres so it was an enjoyable lap, but I could have done a little better. Compared to the beginning of the Prologue we are happier with the car and also the track conditions. We have a better feeling, but still I think the race will be quite difficult, especially double-stinting the tyres. Hopefully we can make the right decisions and fight for victory; that’s our target. Depending on the sessions through the weekend, sometimes we’ve had better pace on the long run and sometimes it has been car #7, so it’s difficult to predict, but of course we want to race hard and fight with the other GR010 HYBRID for the win.”