Toyota has claimed its maiden victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours and Fernando Alonso has moved one step closer to capturing motorsport’s ‘Triple Crown’.
The Spaniard, partnered with former F1 drivers Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima won the race ahead of the #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez.
While the #8 Toyota driven by the winning trio started from pole position, it didn’t lead from start to finish. For much of the first six hours, the two Toyota LMP1 cars traded places and by the seventh hour of the race, the #7 car had built a lead exceeding two minutes.
Alonso then jumped behind the wheel for his race-changing second drive at around 1:30 am. The two-time Formula One World Champion completed a quadruple stint and ran until 4 am, regularly lapping up to five seconds per lap faster than Lopez in the #8 car. Thanks to Alonso’s effort, Nakajima was able to make easy work of Kobayashi in the sister car just before two-thirds distance.
Alonso now just needs to win the Indy 500.
When the chequered flag fell, the #8 Toyota had completed 388 laps, two more than the #7.
As Toyota was the only manufacturer-backed team racing in the LMP1 category this year, it was always a clear favorite to take victory. All other LMP1 cars competing were run by privateers. The #3 Rebellion-Gibson R-13 driven by Thomas Laurent, Mathias Beche and Gustava Menezes took the final step on the podium, 12 laps behind the winning Toyota.
In the LMP2 category, the #26 G-Drive Racing ORECA of Jean-Eric Vergne, Andrea Pizzitola and Romain Rusinov won. Elsewhere, Porsche’s special 911 RSRs claimed a 1-2 finished in the GTE pro class while the GTE AM class win also went to a Porsche 911 from the #77 Dempsey, Proton Porsche crew.