Fernando Alonso, together with teammates Sebastien Buemi & Kazuki Nakajima, has won the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Alonso signed up to take part in the World Endurance Championship this season, racing for the Toyota factory LMP1 team at events that don’t clash with his Formula 1 schedule.
Le Mans, the iconic 24 hour endurance race at the Circuit de la Sarthe in France, was one of those events. Following on from his retirement from the Canadian Grand Prix last weekend, Alonso hopped on a plane to Le Mans to join his teammates and prepare for the race.
The two factory Toyotas were the only outright clear contenders for the victory in the LMP1 class, with Alonso, Kazuki Nakajima & Sebastien Buemi driving the #8 car; Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez drove the #7 car. The two TS050s spent a large proportion of the race locked in their own private battle, with the #7 car enjoying a healthy lead at the one third mark.
However, the momentum started to shift in the early hours of Sunday morning as Alonso put in a very strong stint to catch Lopez at a vast rate, with Nakajima following suit when it was his turn at the wheel. Nakajima would go on to pass Kobayashi’s #7, before slowing easing the gap out. Penalties for the #7 followed, with Kobyayashi missing his required scheduled driver swap and completing too many laps in one stint. After 388 laps of racing, Nakajima crossed the line to win for Toyota and his teammates.
This marks Toyota’s first win at Le Mans, coming two years after their astonishing defeat two years ago when Kobayashi broke down in the final ten minutes with the chequered flag almost in sight.
With Alonso part of the winning crew of Le Man’s premier class, he adds to his motorsport accomplishments. The so-called ‘Triple Crown of Motorsport’ consists of Formula 1’s Monaco Grand Prix, the Le Mans 24 Hours & the Indianapolis 500. Having won at Monaco in F1 and now at Le Mans, Alonso only needs to win the Indy 500 to become the first driver in 50 years to complete the Triple Crown, with Graham Hill the only man to have achieved it, and the first contemporary driver.
“It is an amazing feeling, I am still in shock,” he said. “I was stressed at the end – I am not used to watching my own car racing. It was a tense 24 hours with the two cars being within a minute the whole race. I am trying to enjoy every second of this moment.”
Alonso’s F1 future is uncertain, with no contract beyond this season with McLaren. It is believed that Alonso has grown disillusioned with the midfield and lack of competitiveness of his team in F1, and that he is pushing for a return to the Indy 500 after taking part in last year’s race. While he retired with a blown engine on that occasion, Alonso had been a strong contender for the win throughout.
Former F1 teammate Jenson Button was also taking part in the Le Mans race with privateer team SMP Racing, but retired with an engine failure following a lengthy stay in the pits.
Enorme la victoria de todo el equipo en la carrera más grande del mundo. Las 24h de Le Mans. Gracias 💙 pic.twitter.com/tOSqxxB4kD
— Fernando Alonso (@alo_oficial) June 17, 2018