Davidson impressed by Toyota’s aggressive response to WEC struggles

© Adrenal Media/FIA WEC
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Anthony Davidson is impressed by Toyota’s aggressive response to the struggles it faced in last year’s FIA World Endurance Championship in developing the new TS050 Hybrid car.

Davidson won the 2014 WEC drivers’ championship alongside Sebastien Buemi, but scored just a solitary podium finish last year as Porsche and Audi overhauled Toyota in the pecking order.

The Japanese manufacturer responded by fast-tracking the development of its new car for the 2016 season, the TS050, impressing Davidson ahead of the start of pre-season testing in France this week.

“The TS050 is all new: new powertrain, new hybrid technology and even the steering wheel is new,” Davidson explained to the FIA’s official website.

“It’s been a fast tracked programme for the team. Hats off to all the guys back in Japan on the engine side and battery side and everyone at TMG in Cologne.

“This has been put together in such a short space of time. It should’ve taken maybe two years and they’ve done it in six months. So from the beating we had last year we had to retaliate in an aggressive way.

“It has put us on the back foot coming into this year because it is not that easy to get it all done in a short space of time but they’ve really worked wonders.

“I’m super impressed by everybody’s effort, including the drivers. We’ve helped the team along every step of the way.”

Davidson will be looking to add the 24 Hours of Le Mans to his trophy cabinet this June, and believes that the decision by Audi and Porsche to match Toyota’s allocation of two cars for the race instead of running three as in previous years could help his cause.

“In terms of performance, not really. In terms of luck, perhaps,” Davidson said.

“You are on a more equal footing in terms of reliability and if lucks going to go your way or not.

“The year we really should’ve had three cars should’ve been 2014 but financially it wouldn’t have worked and we would’ve lost general performance through running a third car at Le Mans. So, yes, it may be more of a level playing field when it comes down to luck.

“I’ve won the championship already, it’s a great championship, don’t get me wrong, I would love to win it again but Le Mans is still on my ‘to do’ list.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III