TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will start the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season finale from pole position after another clean sweep in qualifying for the 8 Hours of Bahrain.
Kamui Kobayashi earned a fourth pole of the season for the #7 GR010 HYBRID Hypercar he shares with Mike Conway and José María López, taking a significant step towards retaining their drivers’ World Championship.
Kamui’s lap of 1min 46.250secs earned a point for pole position and extended their advantage in the standings to 16. The #7 crew now need only to finish Saturday’s race to ensure they are crowned 2021 Hypercar World Champions.
The #8 GR010 HYBRID of Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley took second place and confirmed a fourth consecutive one-two for the team in qualifying.
Brendon’s best lap was a mere 0.290secs behind Kamui’s, with both cars improving by around a second compared to last week’s qualifying thanks largely to lower track temperatures which come with a night-time session.
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing secured the teams’ World Championship with victory last Saturday in Bahrain and can set a new benchmark by winning every race in a WEC season for the first time in the series’ history.
Saturday’s contest not only marks the end of this season, it brings the curtain down on Kazuki Nakajima’s career as a WEC race driver. He will fight for his 17th victory in the series in his 59th race start, although a repeat of his 2018-2019 World Championship win now requires the #7 car not to finish the race.
The destiny of the drivers’ World Championship will be decided over eight hours in the final race of the season, which starts on Saturday at 2pm local time (midday CET) and takes place mostly after sunset.
Kamui Kobayashi (GR010 HYBRID #7): “Both cars knew this was going to be a very important qualifying session for the World Championship. It was a big fight, one of the toughest qualifying sessions of the year. Actually I didn’t expect pole because I had struggled a bit in practice but Mike, José and the team helped me a lot. We made a big adjustment and it worked well. I was happy with my lap and the team effort to achieve this pole position. To finish the season with a win would be great. It’s an important race for me personally because it’s Kazuki’s last race with the team. He is a brilliant driver and team-mate so I hope his last race will be one of the best.”
Brendon Hartley (GR010 HYBRID #8): “We’ve been strong all week on our side of the garage but Kamui delivered a very nice, clean lap so congratulations to car #7. My lap was relatively clean and there wasn’t a lot between the two cars, just a few little areas where we need to improve. We obviously wanted pole position because both cars know that the point can be crucial, so we were doing all we could. It’s going to be hard for us to win the championship unless the other car has a problem and we don’t wish that on them. The goal now is to win Kazuki’s last race so that he can sign off his legendary career with a race victory.”