Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon says that the large qualifying deficit between the two TS050 Hybrid is likely to be explained by an aggressive setup for its #8 car, which caused the car to be unstable.
Vasselon stated after qualifying that the #8 TS050 Hybrid took part in qualifying with a more aggressive setup compared to the sister car in an attempt to compensate for the Success Handicap given to the car for the WEC’s Bahrain season finale.
Instead, the #7 TS050 Hybrid took pole by over seven tenths of a second, which is larger than the 0.54s penalty handed to the leading car under the Success Handicap regulations.
The deficit was largely created by a very quick lap from Mike Conway in the #7 car, whose individual lap was 1.1s faster than the lap set by team-mate Brendon Hartley in the first part of LMP1 qualifying.
Speaking to selected media after qualifying, Vasselon explained that the gap between Conway and Hartley exceeded Toyota’s own expectations.
“It’s clearly more than what we expected, especially if you compare the two best lap times,” he said. “Because when the two cars went out with the same old set, because there was no way for car 8 to be in front.”
Vasselon went on to cite the differing setup between the two cars as the likely explanation for the gap between its two hybrid prototypes.
“The gap of 1.1 seconds is more than expected, and it can probably be explained by an aggressive setup from car 8.”
“Car 8 tried to compensate for the Handicap by going quite aggressive, and the car was a bit too much on the nose, too unstable. This might explain why the gap is bigger than the Handicap.”
Conway, for his part, expressed contentment over his qualifying performance in the post-race press conference on Friday night.
“Qualifying went pretty well. The lap was pretty clean,” he said. “Just didn’t want to make any mistakes and just do a clean lap, and was pretty quick in the end. Happy about that, and obviously for tomorrow, puts us on the right starting point for turn one, happy about that.
“Handed over to Jose, and he did a great job as well. Nice to have pole comfortably, one part of the weekend now out of the way and onto tomorrow.”