TOYOTA GAZOO Racing locked out the front row on home ground for the penultimate round of the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) to earn its first-ever 6 Hours of Fuji qualifying one-two.
Fuji Speedway makes a welcome return to the WEC calendar this weekend after a three-year absence, and TOYOTA GAZOO Racing entertained the enthusiastic home crowd with its second pole position of the season, and its fourth in Japan, in an incredibly close qualifying session.
Kamui Kobayashi’s lap of 1min 29.234secs earned top spot for the #7 GR010 HYBRID, which he shares with Mike Conway and José María López. Brendon Hartley was just 0.020secs behind in second place, in the #8 GR010 HYBRID he drives alongside Sébastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa.
Pole position earned a potentially-crucial point for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing in the manufacturers’ World Championship, extending its lead to 16 points with two races remaining.
Kamui, who won his first-ever WEC race at Fuji Speedway in 2016, set his fastest lap at the beginning of the 10-minute session. Brendon, who set the best time in final practice this morning, was again quickly on the pace and just a fraction slower on his opening flying lap.
Fuji Speedway is the shortest track on the WEC calendar and, despite only 10 minutes in the qualifying session, both cars had time for a slow lap to cool the tyres and brakes before a final push for pole as the seconds ticked away.
Kamui was the first to cross the line to complete his session and did not improve while Brendon bettered his time but missed pole by only 0.020secs. The #36 Alpine was third as less than a second covered the five Hypercars.
After that impressive qualifying performance, the team targets its eighth win in nine attempts at Fuji Speedway in Sunday’s race, its 75th in WEC since joining the series in 2012. The race begins at 11am local time, 4am CEST.
Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car #7): “It’s a great feeling to be on pole position at our home track. My lap could have been a little better but it was good enough. Our GR010 HYBRID is fast here and we showed that performance in qualifying, so I am very happy. After Le Mans, winning at Fuji Speedway is our second priority and the team has worked hard behind the scenes to get us into this position. It was a big challenge coming here for the first time with the Hypercar so thanks to everyone for their effort. The fans have been unbelievable so far this week and we expect a lot of spectators and guests again tomorrow. We will do our best to win so we can celebrate with them.”
Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8): “Qualifying one-two at our home race, in front of the Japanese fans, is fantastic. It was very close between me and Kamui, just two hundredths of a second. My lap wasn’t perfect but I know it was the same for Kamui. This is a difficult track to put a lap together; it’s very easy to lose a tenth here or there. The team did a really good job today but it will not be easy tomorrow. The Alpine was very close and the Peugeots are not far behind so we will have our work cut out in the race but our GR010 HYBRID is working well here and we’re in a strong position.”