27.10.12

Toyota's second consecutive FIA WEC pole

For the final time in this inaugural 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship season, cars representing some of the world’s biggest automotive manufacturers took to the track at the Shanghai International Circuit

In dry but humid conditions, and in front of a fervent crowd of Chinese fans, the LMP cars set off for their 20 minutes of action.

Following pole position at its home track in Fuji, Toyota Racing clinched a second consecutive pole here in Shanghai, and this time it was Alex Wurz who got to do the honours at the press conference afterwards, Kazuki Nakajima being absent from the Chinese race.  It wasn’t the Austrian’s first in the FIA WEC, that being in September at the 6 Hours of São Paolo, but with his lap of 1:48.273 in the No.7 Toyota TS030 Hybrid he set the best overall time of the weekend.  He headed Allan McNish in the No.2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro by a tenth of a second and the gap between the Japanese manufacturer and the third placed car, the No.1 Audi of André Lotterer, was just three tenths.  The outcome of qualifying augurs well for tomorrow’s race!

The LMP1 Privateer teams followed, with just a hair between the first three in the category...just three hundredths of a second.  There was a gap of only 0.016 seconds between Karun Chandhok’s No.22 JRM HPD ARX 03a and Neel Jani’s No.12 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota, the Swiss entry being the interloper between the JRM car and its HPD ARX 03a twin at Strakka Racing.  It’s the first time this season that JRM has been quickest amongst the LMP1 Privateer teams.

It was also a first for Lotus in LMP2.  For the last few races, the Lolas of the Lotus team have showed their hand and today confirmed their form with pole position.  A time of 1:54.132 propelled James Rossiter to the front row in the No.32 Lotus, nosing ahead of the two runners who have so often battled for pole, John Martin in the No.25 ADR-Delta Oreca 03-Nissan and Stephane Sarrazin in the No.44 Starworks HPD ARX 03b.  The American Starworks team is already assured of the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP2 teams this season.

In spite of the 5.45km circuit length, the gap between the different protagonists in each category is very tight which bodes well for an exciting race tomorrow, Sunday 28th October from 1100 hours.  The Drivers’ title is still to be decided between the two Audi line ups and the LMGTE Am title so rendez-vous again at 1700 hours tomorrow (local time) to know who the 2012 winners will be.

Alex Wurz, No.7 Toyota TS030 Hybrid: “We know we have to put in a good performance to beat the Audis in qualifying and the TS030 HYBRID was better today than the driver to be honest. In Brazil I got the perfect pole lap but here I didn’t have the best last sector and lost a few tenths. I didn’t calculate enough for the change in wind direction so lost some time there. Nevertheless it was good enough to fight the Audis for pole position so I am very happy. From the long runs yesterday we looked competitive but the traffic fell pretty well for me. For sure it is going to be close; I expect nothing different than another hard fight like we had in Fuji.”

Karun Chandhok, No.22 JRM HPD ARX 03a: "I'm absolutely thrilled with today's result. It’s the first time we've finished as the fastest privateer car and it’s a great feeling as we have promised it for so long. We know tomorrow won't be easy, as we are all very close here, but we can be very happy with what we achieved today. I think we have improved massively during the season and it’s good to be starting ahead of our main rivals. Tomorrow's race will be tough as the Strakka and Rebellion guys are very strong. The team is working hard and doing an excellent job, and results like today's gives a confidence boost for tomorrow."

James Rossiter, No.32 Lotus Lola-Coupe: “I am unbelievable happy to be on Pole Position! We have worked very hard for this and it is great that the hard work has paid off. At my first race in Spa, I missed Pole Position by just four hundredths of a second. This time, we managed to be in front of our competitors, which is an amazing feeling. I am quite confident for tomorrow because the car is running well. We will now focus on the race and we hope to have a good result.”