TOYOTA GAZOO Racing endured a challenging qualifying session for the first round of the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season, the 1000 Miles of Sebring.
A revised Balance of Performance for the race means the performance of the GR010 HYBRID Hypercars is severely restricted and that was reflected in a qualifying session which was shortened by a late red flag.
Brendon Hartley earned fourth place in the #8 GR010 HYBRID he shares with Sébastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa thanks to a lap of 1min 49.217secs. José María López was seventh quickest in the #7 car he drives alongside Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi.
The red flag shortly before the end of the session robbed both cars of a chance to improve their times and the qualifying results therefore had an unusual look to them, with the lead LMP2 car in third, behind the pole position Alpine and second-placed Glickenhaus.
A sixth pole from seven qualifying sessions for the GR010 HYBRID was a tough challenge due to the Balance of Performance updates, which include a significant limitation on use of the car’s electric, four-wheel drive capability.
Nevertheless, José and Brendon gave their best to fight for a strong starting position on a clear Florida evening, with the sun beginning to set following a hot day at the birthplace of American endurance racing.
Brendon was immediately on track and set what would be his fastest lap with his first effort. He aborted two subsequent laps but looked set to improve in the final moments when he set a quick first sector. That hope was extinguished when an LMP2 car crashed and brought out the red flags.
José waited a few moments before beginning his session but encountered traffic on his first lap, before improving with his second. He was on course to improve further with his final timed lap when the red flag brought qualifying to an early finish.
Despite the disappointing result, the team will focus on optimising its race strategy for Friday’s eight-hour contest, when it will attempt to win a seventh consecutive race for the GR010 HYBRID, which is so far unbeaten in Hypercar competition.
José María López (Driver, car #7):
“I was looking good to improve on my final lap and was around half a second quicker when the red flags came out. So the result could have been better, maybe top four, but it doesn’t change anything. We were not in the fight for pole position so it was all about damage limitation. It’s a long race ahead and we will focus on doing a clean race. If we can do that we can challenge for the podium and maybe more.”
Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8):
“It was tricky because there was not much grip out there for us so we were sliding around a bit. It was a pretty clean lap other than the last corner when I carried too much speed and lost a couple of tenths. But it was definitely not enough to be anywhere near challenging for the pole. We have to do the job in the race by putting together the cleanest race we can. It’s an endurance race and anything can happen so we keep fighting.”