Spaniard Fernando Alonso and his Toyota team won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time on Sunday. The Japanese brand made its first participation.
The Spaniard Fernando Alonso and his Toyota team won for the first time on Sunday the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the star of Formula 1 for his first participation, the Japanese brand – who could have thought himself cursed – on his twentieth attempt.
The double winner of the Monaco Grand Prix (2006 and 2007), the attraction of this 86th edition, becomes the sixth driver in history to achieve the double in the Principality and in the Sarthe, after Tazio Nuvolari, Maurice Trintignant, Bruce McLaren, Jochen Rindt and Graham Hill.
Only the latter has managed to wear the Triple Crown of Motorsport (Monaco, Le Mans and Indianapolis 500), the ultimate goal of Alonso, deprived of success in F1 since 2013 and who intends to prove that he is “The best driver in the world”.
At the wheel of the Toyota N.8, with Switzerland’s Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima, he undoubtedly demonstrated his versatility and adaptability this weekend in front of 256,900 spectators.
From his first stint on Saturday, he scored two breathtaking overtakes to snatch first place from his teammate and Argentine opponent José Maria Lopez, driving the N.7.
At night, “Nando” was brilliant to bring his Toyota TS050 Hybrid back into contact with the sister car, after his crew was penalized with a “stop and go”.
Even before his baptism of fire, Buemi, who like Nakajima ran after a win in the Sarthe since 2012, ensured that the double world champion F1 was “a real plus for the team.”
“Fernando really does not at all, at all underestimated the work. He really got involved more than I could imagine, he said. He’s really part of the team. He brings experience and constantly new things, ideas, challenges. ”
The last F1 driver in action to win at Le Mans was Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg with Porsche in 2015, but he was only entered for one race when Alonso is in action for the entire endurance season and is also aiming for the world title after winning the first two rounds.
Toyota has benefited from a favorable combination of circumstances, being for the 2018-2019 season the only manufacturer in LMP1, after the withdrawals of Audi and Porsche in the last two years.
His work on reliability made during the winter has paid off, without major warning – contrary to the repeated failures since 2012 – otherwise a lack of fuel for the Japanese Kamui Kobayashi at the wheel of the N.7 at half past one ‘arrival.
The two crews did not even need to mobilize the management capabilities of extreme situations developed by simulating failures and accidents in tests.
The stress, then the relief and emotion were also visible on all the faces in the Toyota garage and on those of the three winners who offered themselves a lift from the pit lane, Alonso and Buemi sitting on their cars driven by Nakajima, who completed the last stint.
The eight non-hybrid prototypes entered by the private teams proved to be far from being up to the challenge, with the exception of the two Rebellions. The N.3 of the Frenchman Thomas Laurent, 2nd last year with a LMP2, and the N.1 finish third and fourth at twelve and thirteen laps respectively.
The other six have suffered with no less than five retirements, including that of SMP Racing N.11 British Jenson Button, also a novice, and the Russian Vitaly Petrov.