Fernando Alonso and Toyota win Le Mans 24 hour race

Ruben Hill
June 17, 2018

Having been behind since the sixth hour of the race after picking up a 60 second stop/go penalty for speeding in a slow zone area, the #8 auto was over two minutes behind the sister #7 vehicle of Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi.

Nakajima moved the #8 auto back ahead at Arnage in the 16th hour, and from thereon it held the advantage, helped by a spin for Lopez at the Dunlop chicane with a little over three hours to go. That helped propel Alonso and teammates Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi into a lead they would not relinquish until the chequered flag on Sunday afternoon. The two-time champion was clearly feeling happy with his efforts, radioing in to the Toyota engineers: "Tell me if you want another stint, I've got into the rhythm of the night!" Kazuki was going to be in the vehicle for the last few laps [again], so lots of emotions really. The auto completed 388 laps of the circuit over the course of the race, and crossed the line a lap clear of the rest of the field. Finally, we finished the vehicle without any issues. Toyota's advantage was so big, the lead auto finished a massive 12 laps ahead of the third-placed vehicle, belonging to Rebellion Racing.

The other vehicle to cross the line, remarkably, was the No. 5 TRSM Racing Ginetta G60-LT-P1, which completed 289 laps through the 24 hours in a race, let's not forget, that marked the car's competition debut.

The #17 SMP Racing LMP1 vehicle had been running in third place at midnight when it snapped out of control in the high-speed Porsche Curves and went rear-first into the tyre barrier. The vehicle, which also has Jenson Button and Vitaly Petrov in its driver line-up, is more than fifty laps down on the race leaders however.

Jean-Eric Vergne and co-drivers Andrea Pizzitola and Roman Rusinov had continued to impress overnight at the wheel of the 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca Gibson to retain the class lead, while the #23 Panis-Barthez Liger had moved ahead of the #36 Signatech Alpine.

With the LMP1 field depleted, the LMP2 class leaders were running up in fifth place over all behind the Rebellions.

The #36 crew was unable to match the #26 auto when two-time event victor Lapierre was not at the wheel and was never in the victory fight after it fell off the lead lap in the 11th hour, but enjoyed a largely clean run, although Thiriet had a spin exiting a slow zone in the sixth hour.

Meanwhile, Graff-SO24 completed the podium with its No. 39 Oreca driven by Tristan Gommendy, Vincent Capillaire and Jonathan Hirschi.

Duval was 34 seconds ahead when he made his final pitstop, but emerged 25s behind his compatriot and was unable to make up the deficit.

The slow zone remained until forty-seven minutes past the hour at Tertre Rouge despite the repairs of the drain cover from the previous hour being completed. In the lower classes, Juan Pablo Montoya endured a tough first appearance at the circuit.

Toyota TS050 Hybrid
Fernando Alonso and Toyota win Le Mans 24 hour race

The vehicle went back out on track but had lost several laps and eventually finished 11th in class.

Paul di Resta had been running fourth in the sister #22 United Autosports Ligier with four hours to go when he crashed heavily at the Porsche curves and retired.

Panis Barthez Competition had the other strong-running Ligier but lost 70 minutes when Will Stevens had to bring the No. 23 auto into the garage with clutch problems.

Porsche claimed GTE Pro class victory, with its pair of retro-themed, Manthey-run 911 RSRs claiming a 1-2 finish for the Weissach brand. Porsche did take the win in the GTE-Pro category, with Michael Christensen, Kevin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor behind the wheel of the No. 92 auto.

The Russian-backed entry finished fifth overall and 19 laps off the overall victor.

Ferrari's top finisher was the sixth-placed #52 auto shared by Pipo Derani, Antonio Giovinazzi and Toni Vilander, two laps down, while Aston Martin's leading Vantage GTE finished ninth, five laps down.

Rebellion's R-13s didn't have a trouble-free run, as both cars hit relatively minor trouble at various points throughout the race.

Both Toyota cars got away clean, setting the tone for a one-sided race. The #69 Ford also spent the final two hours of the race in the garage with an electrical issue.

The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche remain at the top of the order in GTE Am, with Julien Andlauer just under half a minute clear of the #85 Keating Motorsports Ferrari, now in the back in the hands of Jeroen Bleekemolen after he took over from Ben Keating.

Alonso quickly closed the gap to Lopez during his first stint, showing just how fast he really is. But getting both cars to the finish, 10 and 12 laps off the winning vehicle, and ahead of the other cars (all of which had a far more extensive pre-season test program) was nevertheless a big achievement.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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