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Fernando Alonso Wins 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours With Toyota

Fernando Alonso has won the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours race along with Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi in the Toyota Gazoo Racing Car #8 (TS050 Hybrid). Alonso won the historic race on debut and now has won two-thirds of the “triple crown” (Wins at Monaco GP, Le Mans, Indy500). The Spaniard will need a win at the Indy500 to join Graham Hill in this exclusive club.

Fernando Alonso Wins 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours

Alonso is a two-time world champion in Formula 1 (2005, 2006). It has been 12 seasons since the last drivers’ championship for Alonso. The Spaniard has been close to winning the title three more times since then (2007, 2010, 2012). His quest to be in a championship winning F1 car has seen him increasingly frustrated in the last few seasons.

Alonso left Ferrari to rejoin his old McLaren team in 2015. As the McLaren-Honda project failed over the next three seasons, Alonso was looking for fresh challenges. He made it his mission to win the “triple crown” of motorsport. In 2017, he missed the Monaco GP to race in the Indy500. Alonso was in the lead in the race until his Honda engine blew up in the last laps.

Alonso decided to try his hand racing in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) with Toyota Gazoo Racing team this season. In 2018, successful manufacturers like Audi and Porsche exited LMP1 racing. Toyota was the only significant manufacturer in the championship this season.

Toyota’s checkered history at Le Mans

Toyota has never won the Le Mans 24 Hours race. The Japanese manufacturer has returned to Le Mans since 2012 in the LMP1 class. The team had two second-place finishes until this season. Toyota has participated in different classes at Le Mans since the 1980s. But victory has always eluded them.

In 2016, the Toyota car driven by Kazuki Nakajima came to a stop on the last lap when it was leading the race. After 23 hrs and 56 minutes of getting it right, things went wrong in the last few minutes.

In 2017, a mistaken identity of a driver for a marshal led to a reliability issue that ended the race of the leading Toyota car driven by Kamui Kobayashi. They were favorites to win the race until all three Toyota teams came undone in the race.

Alonso joined the Toyota team to participate in all the races of the WEC Super Season from May 2018 to June 2019. Le Mans is the “jewel in the crown” of the WEC championship.

Alonso provided a big boost to Toyota’s 2018 Le Mans campaign. With the increased interest of the F1 fans in the WEC series and in Le Mans because of Alonso’s participation, the profile of the series and the Toyota team has been lifted.

Anxious moments during the 24 hour race

The Toyota Car #8 started in pole position. As the race ebbed and flowed over the next 24 hours, F1 fans followed the fortunes of Alonso in the race. During Buemi’s stint in the 10th hour of the race, a stop-go 60-second penalty for speeding in a slow zone was incurred. The penalty saw Car #8 fall behind the lead to the sister Toyota Car #7. Alonso’s team and the car was one lap down at one point to the leader.

Alonso in his second stint in the night was relentless as he scythed through the traffic lap after lap. Every lap saw the Spaniard cut the lead by a few seconds and cut the overall lead by 1 minute and 50 seconds.

Finally, during Nakajima’s stint, Car #8 took the lead from the sister Toyota car. The team did not surrender the lead after that even though there were some anxious moments.

Toyota Car #8 Wins Le Mans 2018

Jose Maria Lopez in Car #7 had a spin as he pursued the lead Toyota car and lost time to the lead car. In the penultimate hour of the 24-hour race, this car had another scare as it slowed down and it appeared to be a reliability issue. A sigh of relief for the Toyota team as it was an issue with fuel, not a mechanical issue. The car continued after the dramatic pitstop.

There was a steady stint in the last hour of the race by Nakajima which saw Toyota Car #8 win comfortably. The sister car had fallen back by then. But the 2016 last lap mishap kept the Toyota team and fans on the edge of their seats.

It was poetic justice to see Nakajima cross the finish line and take the win after the heartbreak in 2016. Alonso, Buemi, and Nakajima are the 2018 Le Mans 24 hours champions. A Japanese driver crossed the finish line for a historic win for Toyota.

Alonso will now return to his F1 duties with McLaren at the French GP next weekend. The Spaniard has a rigorous schedule ahead of him as he participates in both the F1 and WEC season. The Le Mans win will surely boost Alonso’s spirits as he takes on the challenges ahead.

View the Complete Results of the Le Mans 24 Hours here

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