While most F1 drivers are having a quiet weekend ahead of the final F1 race of the season in Bahrain, Sunday saw McLaren Honda driver Fernando Alonso at the wheel of a Toyota WEC car.
The two time world champion had his first taste of the top class of endurance racing with a view to potentially competing at Le Mans.
He covered 113 laps of the Bahrain International Circuit in an official rookie test, setting competitive lap times within tenths of a second of the Toyota works driver Sebastien Buemi.
The 36 year old Spaniard is keen to race at Le Mans and in the 2018 season, although new entries for the LMP1 category are being made, Toyota is the only team likely to be fighting for victory as things stand. The team won the final WEC race of 2017 on Saturday in Bahrain.
He has been helped by Mark Webber (above with Alonso at the WEC race in Bahrain yesterday), the Aussie has also had a hand in encouraging Brendon Hartley’s switch from Porsche WEC team to F1 with Red Bull’s Toro Rosso team
After three tough seasons with McLaren Honda that have yielded very little in terms of results or satisfaction, Alonso is proving something of a mould breaker; trying the Indianapolis 500 and now endurance racing. In January he is set to race in the Daytona 24 Hours for Zak Brown’s United Autosports team alongside McLaren reserve driver Lando Norris.
“We are very excited that Fernando will test our car,” said Hisatake Murata, Toyota’s Team President. “When he visited us in Cologne everyone who met him could sense his enthusiasm and passion for our sport; he is a true racer. We very much respect his interest in different forms of motorsport and it is a pleasure to offer him this chance to drive a hybrid LMP1 car. It will be interesting to hear his feedback on the TS050 HYBRID.”
There is little love between Alonso and Honda and the politics of a driver who is still contracted to a Honda team and whose large salary is partly funded by them, taking the wheel of their arch rival’s car is interesting.
But on the flip side it provides a great boost for the World Endurance Championship, which has endured a tough season with the decision by Porsche to withdraw from LMP1, following sister team Audi’s similar decision a year earlier.
Alonso wants to win the Le Mans 24 hours and the Indy 500 to complete the triple crown of great motor races along with Monaco GP. Graham Hill, Damon’s father, is the only driver to have achieved this. Alonso has won Monaco.
Juan Pablo Montoya has already won two of the three and said on his recent visit to Austin that he had been considering making an assault on Le Mans, so he may get to the triple crown before Alonso does.
What do you think of the Alonso Le Mans story? Leave your comments in the section below