Toyota win Le Mans with double Formula One champion Fernando Alonso

Credit Craig Robertson

Toyota won their first 24 Hours of Le Mans yesterday with Japan's Kazuki Nakajima at the wheel as his two co-drivers Fernando Alonso and fellow former Formula 1 driver Sebastien Buemi watched from the pits.

For Nakajima, the win was extremely significant. Hill won the Monaco Grand Prix five times, the Formula One world championship title twice and the Indianapolis 500 once, and completed both versions of the triple crown in the year 1972 by winning the Le Mans. "I'm really speechless, but I have great teammates and Toyota gave us a very strong auto".

Toyota's win is made all the more special after the team came within a lap of victory in 2016 only to have it taken away from them by reliability issues.

Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya has already completed two of the three legs - Monaco and Indianapolis - and is also racing at Le Mans but in a second tier LMP2 auto that can only win in exceptional circumstances.

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.

"Tell me if you want another stint, eh?" I am really proud of my #7 team, and Kamui and Mike; we gave it our all.

Buemi admitted that the aformentioned penalty cast doubts in his minds that winning the race was possible. The same unit is used on the Toyota TS050 Hybrid sport prototype, participating in the world championship on races on endurance (WEC).

"I think this is definitely the biggest win of my career".

Credit Craig Robertson
Credit Craig Robertson

"Finally", exclaimed Nakajima, who had the honour of taking the vehicle across the finish line.

Alonso has had a challenging time in F1 of late, with his McLaren not yet capable of securing podiums or victories. We did a lot of progression for the race.

"The vehicle balance changed a lot, we had a better balance towards the end, the auto definitely wasn't as fast at the start".

The number 7 vehicle was always out of reach.

For Alonso, it's a very different feeling.

Much of the media coverage of this win will inevitably focus, some of it to an overly simplistic degree, on the triumph for Fernando Alonso, be reassured that the double F1 World Champion likely shares the mild distaste for that media tactic.

Drivers of the Toyota TS050 Hybrid No8 of the Toyota Gazoo Racing Team Sebastien Buemi of Switzerland, right on the auto and Fernando Alonso of Spain celebrate after winning the 86th 24-hour Le Mans endurance race, in Le Mans, western France, Sunday, June 17, 2018.

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