Toyota locks out Spa front row as lap records fall

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Toyota locks out Spa front row as lap records fall

Le Mans/WEC

Toyota locks out Spa front row as lap records fall

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Toyota Gazoo Racing will start from pole in tomorrow’s 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, after a record-breaking performance. The team’s No. 7 TS050 HYBRID broke the WEC qualifying lap record at the Belgian circuit, on an afternoon where all four WEC class qualifying lap records fell. Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi set a remarkable 1m53.747s combined average time en route to pole position ahead of tomorrow’s six-hour race.

The pair struck early, with drops of rain starting to fall. Kobayashi took the wheel first, managing a 1m53.812s before Conway climbed in and lapped the 4.3-mile circuit even quicker. The former IndyCar man set a best time of 1m53.683s before the rain increased and prompted much of the Prototype field to pit.

“The performance was good, we did the best job we could. I think me and Mike did a great job, the car performed well, I was happy with the lap.” Kobayashi said. “At the last corner it started raining, so I had to take it a bit careful, but it was a clear lap. We managed to get both cars to set times in the dry.

“I think we expect snow tomorrow. For the moment the weather forecasts are predicting snow and rain, and they’ve been accurate so far.”

Their time was half a second quicker than the sister No. 8 TS050 HYBRID, which finished up with a 1m54.243s best time.

The best of the privateer LMP1s was again from SMP Racing. The Russian team continued to run quicker than Rebellion’s R-13s, its No. 17 BR1 AER managing a 1m54.711s, to get within a second of the pole time.

It was a remarkable combined average from the No. 17, considering the BR1 AER in the first race of the season at Spa a year ago set a best average of 1m58.2s, in what was the car’s first race weekend. Real progress was shown.

The best of the Rebellions was the No. 3 R-13 Gibson, which ended up fourth.

LMP2’s qualifying record was broken by G-Drive Racing, which took the pole with its (rebadged ORECA 07) Aurus 01. This performance, bringing the Russian limousine maker its first WEC pole, continued the team’s form from the ELMS season opener, where it also scored pole.

Jean-Eric Vergne and WEC debutant Job Van Uitert drove the car and combined to set the team’s time, a 2m00.674s, before the red flags came out for the ByKolles CLM grinding to a halt at the start line with under 10 minutes left.

“I felt that it was one of the best laps of my life,” claimed Vergne. “I put everything out there on track. I couldn’t have gone quicker. I brought some skis tomorrow in case we can’t drive. It’s going to be a survival race in difficult conditions.”

The top three in the class was completed by the two Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECAs, the No. 38 leading the No. 37, six and nine-tenths off pole respectively.

The fight for pole continues to be a lottery in LMP2, as there have now been six different polesitters in seven races this season.

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