The two-time F1 world champion will partner ex-F1 racers Kazuki Nakajima and Sébastien Buemi in the #8 TS050 Hybrid
Coming just days after the Spaniard finished the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, the news that Fernando Alonso will race at Le Mans will set the pulses of motorsport fans everywhere racing.
Alonso first experienced prototype machinery when he tested Toyota’s 2017-spec LMP1-H contender in Bahrain following the last race of the 2017 World Endurance Championship. He impressed former Toyota LMP1 pilot and Le Mans winner Alex Wurz, as well as setting a time marginally faster than WEC LMP2 standout Thomas Laurent.
Despite Alonso’s successful LMP1 test and no confirmation from Toyota regarding its 2018 driver squads, there was no guarantee he’d race at Le Mans. It seems that even though Alonso’s 24 hour race debut at Daytona was plagued with tyre, throttle and recurring brake issues, the experience confirmed Alonso’s desire to race at Le Mans.
“I experienced things that were new to me,” Alonso remarked of his Daytona debut.
“Next time I jump in a prototype car, closed cockpit, I know the traffic situations, night driving, safety car. That was one of the goals for this event.”
“This year, I have the chance thanks to McLaren to race for the win at Le Mans. It is a big challenge – much can go wrong – but I am ready, prepared and looking forward to the fight,” Alonso said.
In addition to Le Mans, Alonso will compete in the WEC ‘Super Season’ races at Spa, Silverstone and Shanghai before the series’ winter break.
However, he was clear that his primary objective is still Formula 1. “In no way will this challenge take away from my main target of Formula 1 with McLaren.”
Despite Alonso’s newly-announced Toyota commitments adding four extra race weekends to the already record-equalling 21 race F1 calendar in 2018, McLaren chief Zak Brown fully supports his driver’s plans.
“It’s no secret that Fernando has wanted to contest the Le Mans 24 Hours,” said Brown, who himself has business interests in different categories within motorsport.
“Like Fernando, at McLaren we’re racers at heart, and our team is built on a brave heritage of competing and succeeding in different forms of the sport. Equally important is the confidence that nothing detracts from our number one goal of Formula 1.”
Alonso’s F1 commitments mean he will miss Toyota’s home race at Fuji in Japan as the WEC race clashes with the US Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas. However, Toyota has previously used reserve drivers or entered a car with just two drivers for the 6 hour WEC races when a driver has been unavailable. Next season, Toyota have announced that WEC champion and ex-F1 driver Anthony Davidson will step down from the main squad to fill the reserve driver role.
If Alonso wins Le Mans in 2018, he will be the first active F1 driver to win at Le Mans since Nico Hulkenberg won for Porsche driving their 919 Hybrid as a one-off in 2015.