Fernando Alonso’s Le Mans attempt: Most likely victory of his racing career?
McLaren
Posted By: Editor   |  14 Jun 2018   |  10:40 pm GMT  |  115 comments

Following his Indy 500 exploits last year, Fernando Alonso will tackle another one of motor racing’s famous events, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but with Toyota the firm favourites to take victory at the Circuit de la Sarthe, Alonso has rarely had a better chance to win a motor race in his career.

It’s in stark contrast to his recent F1 career where he hasn’t had a race wining car for some time. In fact, for how much of it has he had a chance?

Toyota have unfinished business with Le Mans; they were denied victory in 2016 after a mechanical problem cruelly eliminated them from the race, whilst further technical problems dropped them out of contention in 2017.

With Toyota the last of the manufacturers in the hybrid LMP1 category of the World Endurance Championship, they’re unchallenged for outright pace this season with the rest of the category consisting of non-hybrid power teams.

Such is the pace advantage of the Toyota TS050 Hybrid, that they have taken provisional pole in Thursday’s qualifying at Le Mans by over two seconds.

With the organisers of the World Endurance Championship looking to shift the schedule from summer to winter, the current championship is a transitional one. Referred to as the ‘Super Season’, this season will run for just over one year, making it the ‘2018-2019 World Endurance Championship’.

Right to left: Sebastien Buemi, Alonso, Kazuki Nakajima

Included in the super season will be two attempts at Le Mans; this weekend’s race (round two of the championship) and the finale, which will take place this time next year. This means that Alonso should have two attempts at winning the prestigious event.

How often has Alonso been the one of the favourites in Formula One?

It’s a long time since Alonso has been labelled as one of the favourites for a Formula One race. He has 32 Grand Prix wins to his name, but the two-time champion wont have much experience of being in a team that’s head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field.

His first team, Minardi, were perennial back-markers, and his first couple of seasons at Renault yielded several podiums and one win.

Even during his championship-winning Renault years of 2005 and 2006, he regularly faced competition from a rival team, most notably McLaren in 2005 and Ferrari in 2006.

His switch to McLaren for 2007 might’ve been ill-fated, but he would’ve enjoyed participating in some of the races in which McLaren had the measure of Ferrari, such as the Grands Prix of Monaco and Italy.

However, a return to Renault saw Alonso move himself away from a championship fight for 2008 and 2009.

He then transferred to Ferrari, racing for them from 2010 to 2014 and, whilst he had two championship-challenging seasons, there were very few races in which Ferrari could’ve called themselves the clear favourites.

Since his move to McLaren in 2015, he’s been away from the podium and battling only for the lower points positions.

In the same period, Formula One has seen numerous stints of domination from the likes of Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes and, at times, McLaren.

Whilst he waits for a competitive return to the forefront of Formula One, his ventures into IndyCar and Le Mans have been a welcome break for Alonso who, having already won the Monaco Grand Prix (one of the triple crown of motor racing), has turned his attentions towards winning the remaining races in the crown.

All images: Motorsport Images

Will you be watching Fernando Alonso attempt to win his second race of the triple crown of motorsport? Leave your comments below.

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1

Why all the talk about the desperate matador, there were two more guys. And Montoya as so many have pointed out, has won two of this thing nobody (not even Montoya) gave or gives a crap about, except the matador himself and his pr people. Give it up! Montoya make it, so we get it done with, and silence this over hyped vanity fair.

2

What a terrible attitude! While Lewis preens on social media with another magazine cover looking all sultry and pensive, Fernando kept me glued to my seat late into the night with epic overtakes, scary side by side moments, team mate drama, intra-team battle, and a thoroughly intriguing view of a race I’ve long felt should get much more attention. If this PR exercise as you call it makes more drivers challenge themselves while the F1 constructor of the moment romps to another victorious season, so much the better. Why the negativity?!?

3

Why would Montoya not have given a proverbial if he was one of the runners in the race this weekend, and also tested for Porsche previously? Based on current form, I’d back Fernando over Juan-Pablo anyway…

4

Nothing about winning LeMans is ‘likely’. If you actually watch a race it is obvious that it is an arduous race of survival in which anything can happen. Simply making it to the end is a massive achievement…

If the insinuation is that this would be a hollow victory for Alonso, or that he is somehow gifted a LeMans win by driving for a factory team that has a performance advantage, we would all do well to remember the Mercedes dominance of recent years in F1? In how many races (and championships) has Hamilton had a performance advantage?..

Alonso took the wheel of the no.8 car during the night and did a massive triple stint. When he jumped in he was 1min behind the leading car, and when he jumped out they were 6secs behind. Much like in F1, his laps were consistent, and relentless. The no8 car is now in the lead by almost 2 mins and will likely win thanks to it’s 3 drivers, including Alonso.

Well deserved.

5
Richard Mortimer

Definitely Eric

When I saw No.8 was behind, I thought they might have to hold station. After all, surely Toyota want to win with either car.

Hats off to Toyota for allowing Fernando to put in that relentless pursuit. Surely, he played his part in an historic victory?

6

Having watched the start, the first hour and the twelfth hour i am absolutely in awe of the talent of these drivers. They are something special. Just to be competitive and finish is no mean feat, especially when tackling the night time stints. That is awesome. This one event is also something else. The size and the participation makes F1 look rather ordinary at times. Whilst F1 is in no way comparable vis a vis the actual cars, the organisation is great and the competition is vast across so many different classes,all in the very same race. That alone adds another layer of skill required by the drivers. I can see why Alonso is attracted as, for someone who wishes to participate, and possibly win, these milestone races, he’s prepared to run two series in one year. That alone is quite a feat…not only commitment but physical and mental toughness. best of luck Fernando.

7

Lots of people making the point that if Fernando’s likely LeMans victory is ‘hollow’ then so are Lewis’ and Nico’s F1 titles won between 2014 and 16. I can see the parallels, and in my view neither win is or would be a hollow one. However I can’t help noticing that some of the people drawing that same parallel have spent plenty of time attempting to diminish those Mercedes wins, but now are saying how impressed they will be if Alonso does triumph! Surely either both or neither wins are hollow?

8

All the press attention over his tipple crown. Montoya has had 2 of the 3 for years. I hope he decides to pursue it.

9

Wayne, tipple crown? Now there’s a competition I could get behind!

10

I have such mixed feelings about this:

I really would sincerely love to see FA win at LeMans, and enthusiastically cheer him on to seal the triple crown but…

As he’s driving for the only ‘full fat’ LMP1 team does that reduce the worth of any such victory..? I guess endurance racing is as much about luck and consistency as speed so maybe he would be a worthy winner, regardless? Also in the end statistics only tally the results.

Then there’s the small matter of Toyota’s other car… I do hope there’s no ‘funny business’. I trust that kind of thing happens far less than the ‘tin-foil hat’ brigade would have us think.

…and finally there’s Jenson Button in the same race. Horrible of me though it is to think this, and I know he’s not in a competitive car, but I would laugh myself silly if this was one of those LeMans’ where all the front-running cars dropped out, he won it, and then won the ‘500 himself on a whim, having previously expressed no interest in achieving Graham Hill’s record.

11

I see this as no less a victory than the recent Mercedes domination years. Especially Ham v Rosberg. Their only challenge was each other or reliability. It would be wrong to call a potential Alonso Le Mans victory hollow if you think Hammy and Rosbergs were deserving. Even two of Sebs four went down to the wire and it wasn’t just his team mate in the mix…

12

Not valid comparison, it would be if f1 had introduced rules saying that nobody is allowed to lap faster that Mercedes and dictating that all other teams have to pit more often. But they didn’t, so it isn’t. One team having significantly better equipment is one thing, ( let’s face it they can all employ designers and apply technology some just do it better than others) but having rules. That hobble other competitors in less capable cars is taking the #|$$

13

I’m aware it can be too much bashing of a single driver, but one must say he’s really put himself in a spot, and said things over and over again, that you just cant let slip, but review. Just a few things. I’ll leave the shady stuff out. This is a driver that never have had the guts to drive against another driver of real class and ability. Once he happened to find himself with one, McLaren 2007, but that he could not anticipate. And we all know how that panned out. Otherwise his whole career has been to avoid to have to fight on equal terms. He’s played his politics to the extreme. He could not get to Ferrari until Kimi left. And then Ferrari unfortunately took him on. They could have won the championship I believe with the right drivers those years, or should have. What happened in Benetton/Renault I’ll let anyone who cares find out. When Kimi came back to Ferrari Alo probably had something in his contract, no doubt, already against Massa, that would also affect Kimi, so there was never any competition as been the case in every team he’s been in. If he’s as fast as he himself proclaims, many journalists has swallowed his clickbaites for as long as they come. it would have been guaranteed that he’d always had a good seat where to win. But for endless seasons there’s always excuses why he’s not winning. Instead it’s rather the opposite. The whole universe has conspired agains him, when in fact the master of conspiracy is himself. And it’s not just the politics that’s to blame. He’s a good driver but iv’e not seen the evidence of that greatness he himself propagate about his skills. Theres a difference, however slight that might be, being one of the real great ones and merely good or even really good. But relentless and devoted one must say he is, but if you have to proclaim you’re own greatness, it just gets ridiculous. That is, if your not Muhammad Ali, then you’re just confirming the reality.

14

I guess if you ramble on long enough you’ll assume that people will just take your statements as fact. Far from it. Just like saying Ferrari could or should have won with the right driver in those years.. even Ferrari didn’t say that, nor did this article. No one in their right mind would.

15

Just th other day he was talking about ‘undeserved trophies’. If he wins Le Mans, I wonder if he’ll count this as one of those?

16

I’ll be watching, but not because of Alonso. I’ve always loved Le Mans. Alonso? Not so much. I like his business manager, Briatore, even less. I wonder how responsible he is for the moves FA has made?

17

He’s already got pole. Alonso should win this unless the Toyota breaks down – like the last time around.

18

Go Mike Conway!

19

If he wins LeMans this year that leaves only the Indy 500. It will be great for us Indycar fans to watch him run the whole season and try to win the big one. I applaud him for doing this as his role in F1 is pretty boring now.

20

Meep reading that it is a two car race with everyone else competing for lesser positions . Kind of a bit like F1 has been for the past four seasons. So a win for Alonso is no less valid than those championships that Lewis and Nico have.

21

@ jon…F1 is a sprint race by comparison to WEC. The spread of talents required is equally demanding. Mercedes had an advantage far superior and they played it as one would expect. The ‘tokens’ were in place to ensure that they were always in front simply because they got it right first time and the competition were hampered in development.

22

Picking a dominant car/team capable of winning – How is this different from F1?

23

“Following his Indy 500 exploits last year”

Did these include a win?

And who is the mystery figure who writes under the name of Editor?

Has he and James ever been seen in the same room together?

24

It included being named Rookie of the Year for the race, which was reasonable compensation since he was running in close company with the eventual race winner at the time when his Honda blew up…

25
Tornillo Amarillo

they’re unchallenged for outright pace this season

It’s not elegant to win Le Mans like this. It’s a shame for Alonso.

He would try because the Hulk won it in 2015 at the first attempt, like Alexander Rossi won Indy 500 in 2016 at the first attempt. Youngers showing Alonso the path… Not good.

Hope Alonso wins this, or it would be really embarrassing for him…

26
On the marbles

Can anyone tell me when the ‘triple crown’ became a thing that anyone gave a toss about? How many people since Hill senior have seriously tried to do it? Not that it isn’t an impressive achievement to be able to win a race in three different top level disciplines, but I get the impression that Alonso as become focussed on this out of desparation. I will be impressed if he goes to IndyCar and wins the whole series after winning the wec. Three championships really would be something to shout about, rather than three races.

27

I’m interested because until recently, nobody in recent times had consciously tried to do it. Indy and Monaco are on the same weekend, and WEC for a good while appeared to be a retirement option for F1 drivers. Hill Snr’s exploits hark back to a time when F1 drivers could prove their mettle in any machinery, not just being firmly ensconced in the one category.

I have a healthy respect for any driver that can compete in different types of machinery with exceptional results.

28

I hope that Zen wont be against him, or Karma, that so frequently haunts this poor warrior, or we’ll never hear the end of it. By I guess if he wins this staged race, we’ll never hear the end of it anyway so one can only hope he moves over the pond so the Americans can deal with it for while. Just hope that no one has to crash to make this happen.

29

I was in the army, some might loosely term that work as being a ‘warrior’ but I have no recollection of Alonso serving alongside me.

I was in the Catering Corps, we’ve killed more men and women than any corps or regiment in the army combined.

30

Alonso’s on a hiding to nothing. It will be a hollow victory if he wins because there is literally no hybrid competition, and he’ll be ridiculed if he doesn’t. A triple crown or anything else has to be evalulated on its merits, not just on its title.

31

Did Hamilton have any competition in 14 and 15 season other than rosberg? Are his championships hollow because of it ?

32

Were other non-Merc cars allowed to lap quicker than the Mercedes? Were they allowed to run longer, if that should be a desirable strategy? Those regulations just stink. Not that they’re having any effect – the Toyota’s are already 4 laps up on everyone else, 10 hours in – but just that they’re even there.

Do you consider Hamilton’s ’14-’15 championships hollow? If you’re at least consistent in how you consider both cases (Hamilton & Alonso) then I have no issue with it. Might disagree with your opinion, but that’s it.

33

Lets give Alonso some credit though if he manages to win this one! Its far from given. Aka. lets not forget that we also have other F1 drivers in this year’s Le Mans, whereof one is a Formula One Champion like Alonso (Button) and the other actually a driver who is ahead of Alonso for the triple crown quest, namely JP Montoya, who has both won the Indy 500 and the Monaco F1 GP! (unfortunately Montoya is only in the LMP2 group this year, so most likely not in with a chance to win)

But that Alonso starts on pole on Saturday is actually thanks to his great team members, where it was Nakajima that made that outstanding pole lap approx. 2 seconds faster than what the other Toyota car/team were able to do. So its definitely not a given that Alonso will win on Sunday afternoon. Its a very long race and a lot can happen in those 24 hours. Especially also with handling the 59 other cars on the race track, whereof you have many debutants that also frequently causes terminal crashes as the car class Alonso is in will have to make overtakes upon overtakes through the 24h including during the challenging night drive. Something clearly new also to Alonso, both to drive in the dark with lights on at those high speeds and also having to make so many overtakes nonstop to succeed with this venture. ;o)

If they go the distance without mechanical failure the win is most probably going to one of the two Toyota cars, as the other LMP1s do not have the full hybrid effect as Toyota does. Never the less, its always going to be a great race and event!

34

Will Alonso finish ahead of Petrov?

35

Alonso has run a few endurance races to get him up to speed. Norris looked good against Alonso in the same car.

36

Dear Editor, who are you please?

37

Name: Ed Editor

Born May 2nd 1994

Social security number 730 273 3621

You can now steal his identity.

38

Last race where Alonso would have been favoured would be China 2013. I recall Alonso and Massa swallowing Hamilton up on the pit straight because the starting tires went to mush after 4-5 laps.

ESPN have an article charting Alonso’s path from F1’s brand spanking new champion, to his entry in LeMans this weekend. As I’ve said many times before, Alonso’s F1 experience will be THE cautionary tale for future drivers, for generations to come.

Interesting that Nakajima did the business for the #8 Toyota. Kazuki did 36 GP’s in F1, all with Rosberg as his teammate. He only out-qualified Rosberg 7 times over that stretch.

If his Toyota holds together, then he should win. While the #7 looked the fastest car at Spa, starting a lap down and finally a hold station order at the end meant theu haf no chance of victory. The #8 looks the quicker car this weekend, but we’ll see.

39

Alonso is desperate to win something. We may even see him pop up in the Great British Bake Off! But how hollow will a Le Mans win be when there is no competition? I just can’t take it seriously…

40

About as hollow as every F1 WDC of the hybrid era I’d say.

41

Interesting that you only singled out the hybrid era wins as being hollow. What about the Schumacher/Ferrari years? When they had their own test track, basically an unlimited budget and tyre supplier building tyres just for them or… well pretty much every other era in F1?

42

Ben, sorry but your comment contains an error, Ferrari didn’t have Bridgestone building tyres just for them, Bridgestone built tyres just for Michael.

43

That is very true, Alonso seems to be desperate. And miserable… recently he bit the ass of those having more titles and wins than him, as kind of unworthy victories. Green with envy I guess.

44

@ AlanF1….. Of course Alonso wants to win!! That’s why they are there or had you forgotten? The fact that he’s not had a championship winning car for so long surely feeds the hunger relentlessly especially when he knows that he’s talented enough to take on any of the ‘tall poppies’ and possibly beat them on talent alone. I look at the man and his talents and i see an individual who is totally committed to his craft and the desire to win.

45

I guess a win is a win, but when Toyota win this years Le Mans, the lack of competition will surely make victory seem a little hollow.

46

“I will not be happy if I have many trophies at home and people think that I don’t deserve them. That would be even harder. “- Alonso

47

Who even cares?

48

There he is!

Can you take over now?

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