Toyota win Le Mans with double Formula One champion Fernando Alonso

Toyota win Le Mans with double Formula One champion Fernando Alonso

The number seven Toyota - driven by Japan's Kamui Kobayashi to the checkered flag and shared with Briton Mike Conway and Argentina's Jose Maria Lopez - crossed the line in one-two formation with Nakajima but two laps down.

Fernando Alonso celebrated a victorious debut in the 86th edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours race as Toyota triumphed. They started from pole position on Saturday afternoon after Japanese former Williams driver Nakajima posted the fastest time in qualifying for their number eight vehicle.

The advantage seemed to have swung to the number seven vehicle when Buemi was penalised with a 60-second stop-and-go penalty for speeding in a caution zone shortly after night fell on Saturday.

Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon says he was "surprised" by the pace shown by the non-hybrids in the race, which showed reduced performance compared to qualifying.

The #68 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team USA vehicle finished in third place in GTE Pro through the services Joey Hand, Dirk Muller and Sebastien Bourdais, earlier challenging the #91 Rothmans-inspired Porsche for second in an intense battle around the 13.626km-long circuit.

The last F1 driver to win at Le Mans was Germany's Nico Hulkenberg with Porsche in 2015, but he only entered one race, while Alonso signed for the entire endurance season and, after winning the first two rounds, is leading the overall standings.

A Toyota victory had been widely predicted after last year's champions Porsche withdrew from the 2018 edition.

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But in a series of stints in the dead of night, Alonso clawed back the deficit and put the number eight vehicle right back on the tail of the number seven.

And Kobayashi missed a pit stop in the penultimate hour and had to complete much of a lap on electrical power alone because he did not have enough fuel. The 2009 world champion, racing with ex-F1 driver Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin, dropped out of the running when they lost two hours in the pits and ultimately retired in the final hour when their engine failed.

The eventual third-place finishing vehicle had two trips to the garage in the early morning, including one to fix its floor, while the No. 1 auto had several issues throughout the race.

Hayden reckons that the team's 12-lap deficit to Toyota was at least partially down to these mechanical and reliability problems rather than the regulations. And Alonso's chances of Le Mans success had appeared to fade with 14 hours to go when the #8 Toyota dropped two minutes behind when Buemi collected a stop-go just after midnight.

Either way, the win is likely only to enhance his status as one of motorsport's iconic historical figures.

"I went there (the Indy 500) past year without any particular objective".

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