Le Mans - Fernando
Alonso celebrated a "lucky" second straight Le Mans 24 Hour race title
on Sunday in a Toyota, the two-time Formula One champion sharing the
wheel with Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima.
Another Toyota driven by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria
Lopez, was in the lead and on course for victory only to suffer a
puncture one hour from the 15:00 finish.
Entering the closing stages Spaniard Alonso's car with Nakajima
driving lagged over a lap behind the other Toyota hybrid, before fortune
intervened to gift them the advantage, and victory in the 87th edition
of Le Mans in front of a crowd of over 250 000 committed motor
Alonso's No 8 entry crossed the line 17 seconds clear of the pole-sitting No 7 after 385 laps of the iconic circuit.
"It was luck that gave us the trophy, we'll take it, because
motorsport is like that. I hope they'll win next year," said Alonso.
His Swiss team-mate Buemi, also a former F1 driver, added: "It wasn't fair for the No 7 car.
"I can imagine what they are feeling after 2016 in the last lap for us, it must be terrible."
Three years ago Buemi was in the team assured of victory only for their Toyota to lose power when in the lead on the final lap.
The 1-2 outcome was a carbon copy of 2018 and it handed Alonso, Buemi
and Nakajima the endurance drivers' title with Toyota having taken the
constructors' crown last month.
A distant third was the SMP entry driven by Vitaly Petrov, Mikhail Aleshin and Stoffel Vandoorne.
Toyota's post-race tweet contained
mixed emotions: "Dramatic and unexpected end to the race, but it's a
TOYOTA one-two nonetheless. We feel so sorry for our #7 crew, but big
congratulations to our new @FIAWEC World Champions and two-time Le Mans
Alonso, 37, lined up in the classic race after having failed in his
latest bid to complete motor racing's 'Triple Crown' when he missed out
on qualifying for the Indy 500 last month.
A Toyota win this year was all but guaranteed as for the last two
seasons they have been the only manufacturer on the grid after Porsche
and Audi pulled out of the elite LMP1 class which this year featured
just six other cars.
Although Alonso will not be with them in 2020, Toyota will be back
after confirming they will enter a 'hypercar' under new regulations
aimed at boosting competition and trimming costs.
Aston Martin said they too will send a team next year.
As dawn broke over the circuit in the Sarthe region of France only five of the eight cars in top LMP1 category remained.
The SMP Racing car of Stephane Sarrazin, Egor Orudzhev and Sergey
Sirotkin was forced to abandon the race at around 02:00 as
it was in third place. With Orudzhev at the wheel, it went off the track
and was too damaged to continue.
Most of the drama in the early hours of the race was down the field.
The Corvette of Swiss driver Marcel Fassler spun after contact with
the Porsche of Japan's Satoshi Hoshino who is driving for the team
backed by film star Patrick Dempsey.
After two violent clashes with the safety barriers, the Corvette had
to be lifted off the circuit by a crane with the crew forced to abandon.
While Alonso is bypassing Le Mans next year to concentrate on other projects, probably the Dakar Rally, he said he would return.
"This isn't my last lap at Le Mans. I'll be back in the future,
perhaps in a hypercar or something else," he told the circuit's radio
Result of the Le Mans 24 hour race on Sunday:
1. Sebastien Buemi - Kazuki Nakajima - Fernando Alonso (SUI-JPN-ESP/Toyota TS050 - Hybrid) LMP1 385 laps
2. Mike Conway - Kamui Kobayashi - Jose Maria Lopez (GBR-JPN-ARG/Toyota TS050-Hybrid) at 16.972sec
3. Vitaly Petrov - Mikhail Aleshin - Stoffel Vandoorne (RUS-RUS-BEL/SMP Racing - BR Engineering BR1-AER) 379 laps
4. Neel Jani - Andre Lotterer - Bruno Senna (SUI-GER-BRA/Rebellion R13-Gibson) 376 laps
5. Thomas Laurent - Nathanael Berthon - Gustavo Menezes (FRA-FRA-USA/Rebellion R13-Gibson) 370 laps