Toyota Gazoo Racing driver Kamui Kobayashi says he is ‘very proud’ to have topped the first qualifying session for the new Hypercar category in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The Japanese ace went out in the #7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid to post a lap time of 02:00:747, which was comfortably enough to take pole and over half a second clear of team-mate Kazuki Nakajima in the sister #8 Toyota.
“I am very proud to take the first Hypercar pole,” Kobayashi said afterwards. “It’s not been an easy road to get here, we have had some problems this week, so it was not the perfect week up to now. But in qualifying we put everything together and the car was really good.”
The qualifying performance arguably brought an end to doubts over the Hypercar’s true capabilities, after it had been lacking behind LMP2 runners throughout some of the early running at the Prologue and opening practice session.
After the #7 GR010 Hybrid suffered some reliability issues earlier in the week, Kobayashi went on to praise his team for the work done in developing Toyota’s new challenger.
“I was really happy with my first lap on proper low fuel here so I want to say thank you to the Toyota Gazoo Racing team, they have done a really great job with this car.”
“It is a very difficult challenge to build a brand new car to the Hypercar rules and I think to achieve that lap time is pretty good so I am pleased to be a part of the story of this car.”
Toyota’s rivals, Alpine Endurance Team, struggled in qualifying. Nicolas Lapierre’s best time in the #36 Alpine A480-Gibson was nearly two seconds off Kobayashi’s pole time.
Even with that advantage, the reigning World Champion believes that the six-hour enduro will provide Toyota with plenty of challenges.
“I think tomorrow is going to be more challenging, particularly with tyre degradation so there are still a lot of things to overcome.
“First of all we need to achieve reliability and we need to finish the race cleanly, that is the priority.”