The pair of Audi R18 e-tron quattro will start the Six Hours of Fuji from second and third, Benoit Treluyer and Tom Kristensen qualifying the two hybrid machines.
Home advantage appeared to decide the front row, Kazuki Nakajima taking pole position for Toyota with Treluyer, who spent 12 seasons racing in Japan second fastest – just 0.140 seconds slower – in the #1 e-tron quattro.
“It was a good lap even though it’s possible that I could have driven a bit faster,” said Treluyer. “I don’t know, though, if it would have been enough to take the pole position. The car was very good. I’m a little disappointed because you always want to be at the very front, particularly here in Japan where I spent the major part of my career. A large number of fans have come to the track here and given me a warm welcome. I’d have liked to thank them and the team by taking pole.”
“With a difference of only 14 hundredths of a second between Toyota and Audi, qualifying was very close,” added Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, head of Audi Motorsport. “We started to realize that it would become a tough battle, but then it turned out to be even a bit closer than expected. The most important thing is that in the practice and qualifying sessions we’ve put ourselves in a good position for the race on Sunday. I’m expecting a thrilling race. And the large turnout of spectators on Saturday gives us reason to hope for a big crowd on Sunday.”
With Tom Kristensen third in the #2 car he shares with Allan McNish the qualifying result puts the 24 Hours of Le Mans winning line-up of Treluyer, Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler on course to extend their lead in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), which stands at 13.5 points at the start of the race.
“Ben really drove a tremendous lap,” said Lotterer. “He knows the track here well and showed all of his talent. Obviously, with such a small deficit of just one and a half tenths of a second you think, ‘What a shame, a little bit more would have been possible.’ But that’s what you think after almost any qualifying session. Tomorrow we’ll probably experience a fierce battle that I’m already looking forward to.”