Le Mans : Alonso’s Toyota team wins


The double Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso won the Le Mans 24 Hours race for the second year in a row on Sunday with his Toyota teammates Kazuki Nakajima of Japan and Switzerland’s Sébastien Buemi after benefiting from an error by another Toyota team, who changed the wrong tyre on their car after it suffered a puncture.

The No 8 car crew, who took the lead with an hour to go, were also crowned world endurance champions, with Nakajima driving the final stint and becoming the first Japanese to win the title.

Toyota’s No 7 TS050 hybrid car, crewed by Britain’s Mike Conway, Japan’s Kamui Kobayashi and Argentina’s José Maria López, led most of the way but had to stop twice at the end of the race. The first time was because the car had a puncture, and the second time was because the team had changed the wrong tyre during the initial stop. The second stop meant the car dropped to second position, which still meant a one-two finish for the Japanese manufacturer.

The winning margin, after 385 laps of the Sarthe circuit in the 87th edition of a race watched by a crowd of 252,000, came down to 16.972sec. Alonso, 37, recognised luck had played a big part in completing an unprecedented Le Mans double in a single super-season.


“The main goal this weekend was to win the championship,” the Spaniard, who won his Formula One titles with Renault in 2005 and 2006, told Eurosport. “I think car seven was quicker than us for 24 hours, they really deserved the victory but today the luck decided that we have to take the trophy.


“Luck sometimes plays an important part in motor sport and today we feel extremely lucky and maybe we don’t deserve it but we take it. The world championship feels right at this moment.”


The No 8 crew had needed only a top-seven finish to be sure of the title, with the No 7 car their sole rivals. Alonso’s former McLaren Formula One teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, a Le Mans rookie, joined him on the podium in the third-placed No 11 SMP Racing BR Engineering car shared with the Russians Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin. That non-hybrid car finished seven laps off the pace on a sunny afternoon.


The championship was the second of Buemi’s world endurance career, after a first in 2014, and an addition to the all-electric Formula E crown the Swiss won in 2015-16.


The racing was punctuated by crashes, with the Venezuelan former F1 driver Pastor Maldonado hitting the barriers at Tertre Rouge in the No 31 Dragonspeed LMP2 after daybreak and bringing out the safety car.


Before that, the No 17 SMP that had been in third place spun out in the early hours with the Russian Egor Orudzhev at the wheel and the car proving too damaged to continue.