Fernando Alonso and Toyota Take Euphoric Victory at 24 Hours of Le Mans
Toyota’s No. 8 TS050 Hybrid finishes atop the podium, followed by its No. 7 sister entry for a 1-2 finish at La Sarthe.
They've done it—Toyota and the team of Fernando Alonso, Kazuki Nakajima, and Sebastien Buemi have claimed victory at the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans.
This marks just the second time in history that a Japanese manufacturer has won the day-long epic at la Sarthe overall, following Mazda in 1991. Additionally, it snaps the infamous "Toyota curse" that's plagued the manufacturer in recent years, bringing it to total glory for a joyous trip to the top step.
Throughout the race, the pair of Toyotas were each other's toughest rivals as the No. 8 started on pole but was challenged by the No. 7 of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and Jose Maria Lopez. The lead eventually switched near the halfway point as Buemi was then hampered for speeding in pit lane, forcing a 60-second stop-and-go penalty; this widened the gap to over one-minute-and-a-half as Fernando Alonso took back over. His heroic stint in the middle of the night brought the crew within 30 seconds of the No. 7 car.
The fight went on as Buemi hunted down the lead car in his TS050 Hybrid. Eventually, he passed by his stablemate on the inside of Mulsanne Corner during the 16th hour to regain the lead.
Kobayashi fought hard to take back the position, but as time advanced, it became apparent that he and his teammates would have to accept a second place finish.
However, during hour 23, it looked as if crisis had struck the Toyota team once again as the crowd's attention panned to a limping No. 7 entry. The car was seen driving just 80 kilometers per hour down the Mulsanne Straight, seeming like it may not make it back to the pits. Commentators and fans alike were watching with disgust, but as it turned out, Kobayashi had missed the pits and was instructed by crew officials to drive the remainder of the lap on the pit speed limiter to conserve fuel. He was penalized for driving a long stint at 13 laps as Hybrids are only allowed 12 per.
The gap to the leading No. 8 car grew to one lap as the famous clock continued to tick.
Conclusively, it was Nakajima that piloted the car home to victory as teammates Alonso and Buemi began to shake hands with those in the pits ahead of the checkered flag.
Alonso has now completed two parts of the so-called "Motorsport Triple Crown" after having won the Monaco Grand Prix, and now, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The only remaining race to conquer is the Indianapolis 500 which, if Alonso could accomplish, would put him alongside Graham Hill as just the second driver in history to achieve the feat.