Fernando Alonso to race at Le Mans 24 Hours in 2018 and 2019 as McLaren F1 driver joins Toyota for WEC super-season

The two-time Formula One world champion has replaced Anthony Davidson at Toyota and will compete in all bar one World Endurance Championship races in 2018/19

Jack de Menezes
Tuesday 30 January 2018 13:17
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Fernando Alonso will race at the Le Mans 24 Hours after reaching a deal with Toyota Gazoo Racing
Fernando Alonso will race at the Le Mans 24 Hours after reaching a deal with Toyota Gazoo Racing

McLaren have confirmed that Fernando Alonso will compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2018 and 2019 after the Formula One driver joined Toyota Gazoo Racing for the World Endurance Championship super-season, with British driver Anthony Davidson losing his seat as a result.

The 36-year-old has been unveiled by Toyota as one of their six drivers for the new season, which will span both 2018 and 2019 as the FIA attempt to shake-up the championship that will involve two 24 hour races at Le Mans.

Having competed in last weekend’s Daytona 24 Hours where he finished 38th alongside Phil Hanson and Lando Norris – 90 laps off the winners after suffering two brake failures – Alonso will now fully commit to the upcoming WEC season, with the Spaniard only due to miss the Japanese round at Fuji in October as it clashes with the F1 Grand Prix of the Americas in Texas.

The announcement means that Alonso will get a shot at the third and final prong of the ‘Triple Crown’, having won the Monaco Grand Prix twice in 2006 and 2007 and competing in last year’s Indianapolis 500 – which he was forced to retire from late on after an engine failure.

“I’ve never been shy about my aim of winning motorsport’s ‘Triple Crown’ – the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans,” Alonso said. “We tried for Indy last year, came close, but just missed out.

Alonso will drive the No 8 Toyota along with Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima

“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 got his first taste of 24 hour endurance racing at Daytona last weekend (AP)

Alonso will join two former F1 drivers in Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima as the driver line-up for the No 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, meaning that another ex-Grand Prix star in Davidson drops out of the line-up. The 38-year-old will remain with the Japanese manufacturer as “reserve and development driver” and is the likely candidate to deputise for Alonso at Fuji, but he could well be on the lookout for another drive to fill the rest of his calendar.

CEFC Manor TRS Racing, the former F1 outfit, have already announced plans to step up to the LMP1 category with the new Ginetta chassis while Rebellion will also return to the top category, which could offer Davidson a drive directly against Toyota, while the LMP2 category would also offer multiple drives should he wish to remain in WEC this season.

Alonso will race in all-but-one WEC race over the next two years

But for Alonso, the decision sees him continue his venture into endurance racing, and he will attempt to emulate Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg after the German won the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours with Porsche while racing in F1 with Force India.

“I am very excited to participate in the Le Mans 24 Hours for the first time,” Alonso added. “It is a race which I have followed closely for a long time and it has always been an ambition of mine to participate.

Anthony Davidson has been demoted to test and reserve driver

“Endurance racing is a different discipline compared to single-seaters and it will be an interesting challenge. I am looking forward to working together with, and learning from, Sebastien and Kazuki, who are both very experienced endurance drivers. It will be a learning curve for me but I am ready for this challenge and I can’t wait to get started.”

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