Former double F1 world champion Fernando Alonso has reached an agreement with Toyota to race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year as well as some other races in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The McLaren-Renault driver took on the challenge of racing at the Indy 500 last year where he qualified fifth and briefly led before being forced to retire from the race due to reliability issues with his Honda-powered Andretti Autosport car. His teammate Takuma Sato, driving an identical car won the race.
For the 2018-19 WEC season, Alonso will drive the Number 8 Toyota LMP1 prototype along with Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima. Buemi is a former WEC and Formula E drivers' champion, while Nakajima was second in the WEC drivers' championship last year. Both Buemi and Nakajima are former F1 drivers as well.
‘I’ve never been shy about my aims of winning motorsport’s “Triple Crown” – the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans,’ Alonso said in a statement issued by McLaren. ‘We tried for Indy last year, came close, but just missed out.
‘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.
‘My deal to race in WEC was only made possible through the good understanding and strong relationship I have with McLaren, and I’m very happy that they listened and understood what this means to me.
‘In no way will this challenge take away from my main target of Formula 1 with McLaren. In 2018, my aim is to be competitive at every grand prix, and I feel sure that we are closer to achieving that.’
Alonso will race in other WEC races for Toyota, which competes in the LMP1 category. The LMP1 class has faced upheaval of late after going from as many as four major manufacturers in 2015 to just one this year, so far.
Audi withdrew at the end of the 2016 season as did Porsche at the end of 2017. Both manufacturers chose to head to the FIA Formula E Championship. Nissan's participation in 2015 was a disaster, as it was unable to participate in any of the rounds other than Le Mans, where its front-engined, front-wheel-drive GTR-LM was woefully unreliable.
The only one of the eight WEC races that Alonso will not race in will be the 6 Hours of Fuji this October. The 2018-19 WEC season will commence on May 5 with the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and conclude at the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans on 15-16 June that year.