Toyota Motorsport GmbH

Kobayashi, Conway lead Toyota to Shanghai WEC pole

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Toyota Gazoo Racing continued its strong late-season form in the FIA World Endurance Championship as Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway teamed up to grab pole position for the 6 Hours of Shanghai on Saturday.

Entering the penultimate round of the WEC season after a one-two finish in Fuji three weeks ago, Toyota picked up its fourth pole of the season with its No. 7 TS050 Hybrid, finishing four-tenths of a second clear of the rival Porsche team.

Kobayashi’s time of 1:42.526 proved crucial in securing the No. 7 Toyota pole after Conway lapped some six-tenths of a second slower, giving the duo an average of 1:42.832.

Nick Tandy and Andre Lotterer finished 0.440 seconds behind in the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid, with Lotterer losing his first flying lap after being adjudged to have exceeded track limits.

The duo were left to settle for second, with the No. 8 Toyota and No. 2 Porsche cars finishing two-tenths of a second further back in P3 and P4 respectively.

The No. 2 Porsche crew of Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber will clinch the WEC drivers’ title in Shanghai with a top-four finish on Sunday.

The No. 31 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson took pole position in LMP2 through Bruno Senna and Julien Canal, beating the No. 26 G-Drive Racing crew by two-tenths of a second.

GTE-Pro pole went to the ‘Dane Train’ No. 95 Aston Martin Racing crew, with Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen combining to finish two-tenths of a second clear of Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR. Class championship leaders James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi will start third in the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE.

Aston Martin also topped the timesheets in GTE-Am as Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana grabbed pole by four-tenths of a second in the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE, beating the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing team by four-tenths of a second.

O Canada! Why plaid has been rad for Pfaff Motorsports at Daytona

Courtesy of IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In Canada, plaid is beautiful.

In the 2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona, it’s also extremely fast.

Pfaff Motorsports’ Porsche 911 GT3 R has been one of the most colorful sensations this January at Daytona International Speedway. The Toronto-based team has been a checkerboard blur of black and red in the GTD division, winning the pole position with Zacharie Robichon and leading the first four hours Saturday.

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But it also is turning heads with its stylish paint scheme and firesuits, all of which are in a classic plaid pattern.

The “Plaid Porsche” has a nice ring to it, and the team embraces the label even if its outfits might seem more appropriate for a grunge rock band or a lumberjack convention than an elite motorsports event.

“It’s great for people to call us that,” Robichon said. “You’re laughing about it, because it’s funny, but that means you’re talking about it.

“A lot of teams and car liveries, they all blend in together, and it’s a good way to stand out and a fun way to stand out. If you spend some time with the Pfaff Porsche team, you’d see a lot of guys are there and all happy to be there and everybody’s having fun. So having something that’s kind of funny and joyful associated with the team, I think is really good.”

The No. 9 team celebrated after Zacharie Robichon won the GTD pole at Daytona (courtesy of IMSA).

Car liveries typically offer a prominent display of a sponsor’s colors, and the team was able to incorporate the silver branding for new sponsor Motul on the lower rear of the car. “It was kind of best of both worlds,” Robichons aid. “They loved it because people talk about it.”

It’s the second consecutive year that the team has sported a plaid paint scheme at the Rolex 24. Last year, it took delivery on its car with only a week before the Roar before the Rolex test session.

The team was scrambling to assemble the car on Boxing Day in Canada (two days after Christmas) when Pfaff marketing director Laurance Yap was struck by a bolt of inspiration.

“All the crew guys at the shop, they were there over the holidays, and they were were wearing plaid because it’s just kind of what you do at home,” Robichon said. “In Canada it’s quite popular. I’ve got like six or seven plaid shirts, and I’m not embarrassed to say that. You go on a ski hill in the winter, and half the people, that’s what they’re wearing.

“It’s just something that a lot of people wear. We were trying to figure out what to do for the livery, and Lawrence said well, why don’t we just wrap the car in plaid. It was a joke, and we ran with it because we didn’t have any other ideas. And it was really only for Daytona, but everybody loved it, so we just had to stick with it for the whole year.

Zacharie Robichon

This year, Pfaff decided to up the game with plaid firesuits – and bringing the team in line with others that hail from the Great White North.

“The Canadian ski team has plaid jackets,” Robichon said. “Even curling in Canada, the guys wear plaid. If you’re not from Canada, you don’t necessarily make that association, but anybody who is Canadian immediately makes that connection, which is what we’re going for.”

Robichon, who hails from Ottawa and lives in Montreal, is the team’s only Canadian. But teammates Lars Kern (Germany), Dennis Olsen (Norway) and Patrick Pilet (France) have bought into the “plaid is rad” conceit.

“We adapted pretty quick,” Kern said. “We are not Canadian, but we feel like the Canadian national team, so it’s cool as a German to be on the Canadian national team.”

It would be even cooler for the Pfaff drivers if they can match their plaid garb with a Rolex watch.

Robichon liked the team’s chances after a strong week continued into Saturday’s green flag. After crashing and finishing 16th in class last year, he and his teammates managed to maintain pace and the lead through the first four hours.

“My job was to keep the car clean and out of trouble and play it safe with the traffic, and luckily we did that,” Robichon said after his first stint.

The No. 9 of Pfaff Motorsports started on pole in the GTD division of the 2020 Rolex 24.