Toyota: SMP's strategy cost it stronger Le Mans WEC pole shot

Toyota believes SMP Racing could have challenged for pole position at the Le Mans 24 Hours if it had concentrated its qualifying efforts on one driver per car

Toyota: SMP's strategy cost it stronger Le Mans WEC pole shot

Pascal Vasselon, Toyota Motorsport GmbH technical director, suggested that the team run by ART Grand Prix compromised qualifying by going for times with two drivers in each of the BR Engineering BR1s during the final two sessions on Thursday.

Kobayashi seals Le Mans pole for Toyota

"Our feeling was that they were close, but not as dangerous as we were expecting," Vasselon told Autosport.

"I think there is a reason: We went efficient and designated one driver per car to do the qually.

"On SMP's side they have shared the driving duties and that makes it very difficult for the driver."

Mikhail Aleshin and Stephane Sarrazin were given new-tyre runs at the start of the first of the Thursday sessions, before Stoffel Vandoorne and Egor Orudzhev took over qualifying duties in the final period.

The best SMP time was Orudzhev's 3m16.159s from the last session aboard the #17 BRE, which was six tenths shy of Kamui Kobayashi's 3m15.497s pole position mark in the #7 Toyota TS050 HYBRID.

Vandoorne was half a second slower in the #11 car after encountering traffic in the final sector and then making a mistake at the Ford Chicane right at the end of his lap.

Orudzhev and Vandoorne had also been given new tyres in the opening session on Wednesday.

ART technical director Gaetan Jego conceded that SMP might have had a chance to challenge Toyota had it focussed on one driver.

"Toyota is probably right, because it is so easy to make a mistake when you are pushing and you learn with every lap on new tyres," he told Autosport.

He suggested that the BRE was still "a bit shy" of the Toyota on pace, but reckoned that Vandoorne might have been able to get on the front row but for his mistake after setting personal bests in sectors one and two.

But Jego also pointed out that SMP posted its times "at the perfect time" at the start of third qualifying whereas Toyota recorded its fastest laps in the second session when the conditions were not so favourable.

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