Connect with us

24H Le Mans

Toyota Calls Qualifying “Lottery” After Missing Hyperpole

Kamui Kobayashi, David Floury look back on traffic-impacted first Le Mans qualifying…

Photo: MPS Agency

Senior figures from Toyota Gazoo Racing have questioned the suitability of the 24 Hours of Le Mans qualifying format after Wednesday night’s first session, as both GR010 Hybrids missed the cut for Hyperpole.

The Japanese marque’s technical director David Floury described the one-hour session that decided who progressed to Thursday evening’s Hyperpole as a “lottery” owing to traffic that “looked like the M25 [motorway] on a Monday morning.”

His remarks follow Kamui Kobayashi spinning off at the last of the Porsche Curves while making a last-ditch bid to improve his lap time, having encountered traffic on earlier attempts, and causing the red flags.

The Japanese driver was stripped of all of his laps for having caused the stoppage, relegating the No. 7 Toyota he shares with Nyck de Vries and Jose Maria Lopez to 23rd and last on the Hypercar grid.

Brendon Hartley’s final attempt at an improvement in the No. 8 Toyota was scuppered by the red flags and he ended up 11th once Kobayashi was stripped of his times.

“Clearly the qualifying session with this format is really difficult, and our position [at the start of] the pit lane makes it even more challenging because we can’t start the session right at the pit exit,” Floury said.

“We try to release the car where there is a window, and the next lap there is never a window any more.

“This format doesn’t show us a real ranking based on pure performance. It’s a bit of a lottery; it depends how lucky or unlucky you get with traffic.”

While taking the blame for pushing too hard on his final lap, Kobayashi said that he wasn’t aware that the punishment would be to have all of his laps removed.

“I think I had decent pace, enough to fight for [provisional] pole,” he said. “Just I was always caught by traffic. The last lap was the last chance to get a lap time.

“The team was always telling me to push, and I just over-pushed, to be honest. It’s definitely my fault. But somehow I didn’t realize that if you cause a red flag, all your lap times get deleted.

“Last year [Sebastien] Bourdais caused a red flag in qualifying, and he didn’t have everything deleted.

“Even the second-fastest lap was enough to make Hyperpole, so I was a bit surprised that they took away all the lap times. It is [harsh] but that’s how it is.”

Kobayashi went on to argue that Le Mans should use the same qualifying format as the regular FIA World Endurance Championship with individual first qualifying sessions for each class, followed by Hyperpole.

“Instead of this qualifying session, why don’t we do it only with cars in the same category [with individual sessions for each class] if you want to see the real performance of the cars, and not just luck?” he asked rhetorically.

“We are only talking about traffic. Many cars are out of Hyperpole just because of traffic, and this is just luck. If I had no traffic, I would have been [comfortably] in Hyperpole and I wouldn’t have needed to push.”

Floury Standing By Post-Test Day Predictions

Floury says he is standing by his opinion that Porsche remains the marque to beat at Le Mans this year despite only getting one of its three factory 963s into Hyperpole.

The No. 6 car was later joined by the best of the Hertz Team JOTA customer cars after Kobayashi was stripped of his laps, albeit the No. 12 Porsche may not run in the pole shootout due to a chassis change.

Floury said after Sunday’s test day that he felt Porsche was in the best position, going so far as to say the Stuttgart brand “will have done a bad job” if it didn’t end up with victory.

The Frenchman stood by his opinions when asked by Sportscar365 if his opinions had changed after a first qualifying session topped by BMW and that saw cars from Ferrari, Cadillac and Alpine also make the top eight.

“The field is close together, it’s quite compact, which is good for the show,” said Floury. “But it’s difficult to know the exact hierarchy.

“I was questioning what Cadillac was doing, and what we saw was quite obvious. I have no doubt these guys and Ferrari will be strong, and others, like BMW, as I mentioned.

“From our predictions, we were expecting Alpine to be faster than us, and they were very close. I don’t think we’ve seen the true performance of everyone yet.”

Floury added that he has no regrets about Kobayashi being told to push until the end of the session, even though his previous lap would have been enough to make Hyperpole.

“Whether you need to push or you don’t, you only know this at the end,” said Floury.

“In the regulations, it says you might lose some or all of your laps [for causing a red flag]. The decision was to take the harsh way and we have to accept it.”

Jamie Klein is Sportscar365's Asian editor. Japan-based Klein, who previously worked for Motorsport Network on the Motorsport.cоm and Autosport titles, covers the FIA World Endurance Championship and SUPER GT, among other series.

Click to comment

More in 24H Le Mans