Hartley’s #8 GR010 Hybrid qualifies on front row for WEC race in Portugal

| Photographer Credit: TOYOTA GAZOO Racing.

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will start the 8 Hours of Portimao from second and third on the grid with its new GR010 HYBRID Hypercars after narrowly missing pole position in an exciting qualifying for the second round of the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).

Sunday’s race is a landmark event for Toyota which celebrates its 100th World Championship sportscar start since its Group C debut in the 1983 Fuji 1000km. Following a very competitive qualifying both cars are firmly in contention for another victory in Portugal on Sunday, having already won the season-opening 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps last month.

Spa winners Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley, in the #8 GR010 HYBRID, left it late to take second place, just 0.094secs adrift of the #36 Alpine which set a pole position time of 1mins 30.364secs.

“We are still experimenting with our new Hypercar and we tried something different,” said Hartley. “On the first run we used scrubbed tyres because we saw in practice that the new tyres were struggling. We had a back-up plan in case that didn’t work, which was good because it didn’t work. That put some pressure on for my last lap and I feel happy with the job we did.

“It was good planning and team work to get on the front row. I think it was possible to get pole position because it was very close in the end but Alpine took it. Well done to them.

“It’s going to be a close fight in the race with the top three cars within two tenths so we have a long race ahead and on this track it’s going to be very tough with traffic. The LMP2s are not too far from us, so we have to be very focused, with no mistake or contact. Eight hours is going to be very long around here.”

World Champions Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López will start the race from third place in their #7 GR010 HYBRID after a best lap 0.176secs from pole. WEC Hypercar debutants Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus will start from 11th.

A balance of performance adjustment for the GR010 HYBRIDs after Spa, which increased weight by 26kg whilst reducing maximum power and energy, meant the team faced competition from LMP2 cars at Portimao, in addition to Hypercar rivals Alpine and Glickenhaus.

The 10-minute qualifying session was an exciting affair, with positions changing regularly. Mike took the wheel of the #7 on new tyres but lost his first lap due to a track limits violation. Brendon used scrubbed Michelins in the #8 but could not challenge for pole. Mike’s second lap put him in second place.

With the minutes counting down, both cars quickly returned to the pits for new tyres and another attempt at pole position, setting up a tense finale. Brendon saved his best lap until the final moment, snatching second place from Mike, who did not improve his time.

With three of the four Hypercars within less than 0.2secs, Sunday’s eight-hour race, the first for WEC in Portugal, promises to be a close fight. The race begins at 11am local time, 12noon CEST.

Qualifying results:
1st #36 Alpine (Negrao/Lapierre/Vaxivierre) 1min 30.364secs
2nd #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.094secs
3rd #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.176secs
4th #28 JOTA (Galeal/Vandoorne/Blomqvist) +0.846secs
5th #38 JOTA (Gonzalez/da Costa/Davidson) +0.891secs
6th #29 Racing Team Nederland (v. Eerd/v.d Garde/v. Uitert) +1.181secs

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