Brendon Hartley seized the advantage in the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) title battle with a superb pole position for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing at the season-ending 8 Hours of Bahrain.
Brendon’s stunning lap of 1min 46.800secs took pole by a substantial margin, 0.810secs, to earn a point, which could prove crucial in the battle for the drivers’ World Championship.
The #8 GR010 HYBRID crew of Sébastien Buemi, Brendon and Ryo Hirakawa arrived in Bahrain tied on points with the #36 Alpine drivers, but now hold a slim advantage ahead of Saturday’s race.
Mike Conway qualified the #7 he shares with Kamui Kobayashi and José María López in third, 0.938secs behind. The two GR010 HYBRIDs were split by the second-placed #93 Peugeot.
The 10-minute qualifying took place under floodlights on a warm Bahrain evening and Mike left the garage early to wait at the exit of the pit lane, ensuring he was one of the first cars on track when the green flags waved. Brendon bided his time in the garage and his tyres were fitted directly before he headed out.
That proved significant as Mike’s tyres hit optimum operating temperature only on his second flying lap, when he set his best time of the session.
Brendon immediately set the pace on his first timed lap, exploiting the grip from his hot, fresh Michelin rubber to comfortably go fastest, where he stayed until the chequered flag to earn the team’s third pole of 2022.
Competition in Hypercar had been extremely close all week but Brendon’s qualifying lap was in a class of its own. His 0.810secs advantage over the #93 Peugeot was bigger than the gap between all other Hypercars, with second to fifth places separated by just 0.733secs.
The destination of both titles will be decided over eight hours on Saturday, starting at 2pm local time (midday CET), when TOYOTA GAZOO Racing aims for its fourth win of the season to secure its fourth consecutive World Championship double in WEC.
Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car #7): “Brendon did a great job with a really good lap. The team worked hard to come back from some challenges in the first practice sessions and prepare two very strong cars for qualifying. Now it’s time for the drivers to finish the job in the race; we need to trust the team, work together and have a clean race. We want to finish one-two, that is our aim, but the most important target is to win the World Championships. Anything can happen in an endurance race and there are always risks, including managing the traffic, but we always try to maximise our performance. We are all united to complete this last part of the job and finish the season as World Champions. As well as the last WEC race of the season, it’s also the final rally of 2022 this weekend, so the team here in Bahrain wishes TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT a successful Rally Japan in front of our home fans.”
Mike Conway (Driver, car #7): “We waited too long in the pit lane before the qualifying started and the tyres weren’t up to temperature for my first flying lap. By lap two we were quicker, but it was too late by that point because we missed the first lap, when the grip is at its best. We just made the wrong call there. Well done to Brendon and car #8. It’s good for them to get pole position and the extra point, which gives them a little edge going into the race. We had a tricky day yesterday, but we have made good progress on race pace and we are closer to where we want to be. We have some adjustments to do overnight to get ready for the race, which we want to win. It is a long race, eight hours; we will do what we can and keep in mind what car #8 needs to do for the World Championship.”
Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8): “It’s fantastic to get pole position, and particularly the World Championship point. That was one of my better laps. The grip has improved a lot since practice and I got the tyres working perfectly, everything was in the right window. I knew when I crossed the line that it was pretty strong, so it felt really nice when I heard the gap to second place. It hasn’t been a straightforward weekend on our side of the garage up to now. We were struggling in practice this morning, when car #7 went in a different direction to us and was much better. We followed their set-up, so thanks to them for finding the right direction and a big thanks to the team. The qualifying result looks dominant, but I don’t think that reflects the true picture and I am expecting a tight race between us, Peugeot and Alpine.”