LE MANS, France (Associated Press) — Two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso won the 24 Hours Le Mans on his debut in the classic endurance race on Sunday to move closer to motorsport’s unofficial Triple Crown.
The Spanish driver, together with teammates Kazuki Nakajima of Japan and Sebastien Buemi of Switzerland, completed 388 laps in their Toyota hybrid car, two more than Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez in the other Toyota hybrid.
Alonso is bidding to match British driver Graham Hill’s feat of completing the Triple Crown, including wins at the Monaco Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500. Alonso is a two-time winner in Monaco.
“Le Mans once a year is not enough! It needs to be every three weeks,” joked Alonso, who looked to be in trouble when Buemi was penalized for speeding in a caution zone late Saturday.
Alonso’s car was left more than two minutes behind the other Toyota but the Spaniard managed to claw back the difference through the night, putting Nakajima in position to retake the lead from Kobayashi early on Sunday.
“I felt great tonight,” Alonso said after his final stint driving. “I don’t know exactly how, but I managed to make the tires work for us at the right time despite the cool air temp. Our pace has been good and I was lucky with the traffic as well.”
It was Toyota’s first victory at the 20th attempt, and the first win for a Japanese manufacturer since Mazda’s success in 1991.
Former Formula One champion Jenson Button raced for the private SMP team, but the Briton’s non-hybrid car faced early problems with engine trouble that forced its retirement in the final hour.
Some 60 factory and private teams competed in the 86th edition of the race.
Alonso unsure when he will chase Triple Crown at Indy 500
By Joseph Wilson
LE CASTELLET, France (AP) — Still glowing from his win at the 24 Hours Le Mans classic endurance race, Fernando Alonso says he is not sure when he will try to complete motorsport’s unofficial Triple Crown with a victory at the Indianapolis 500.
“I am still digesting a little bit the Le Mans win and (…) not taking too much into account (for) next year’s project,” Alonso said ahead of Formula One’s French Grand Prix.
“As I said last year when I entered the Indy 500, (it) was a very attractive target to achieve the Triple Crown,” he said. “Obviously the Le Mans victory puts a little bit closer that target, but I will think and I will see what I do next year.”
The two-time F1 world champion won Le Mans last weekend together with teammates Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi.
That leaves the 37-year-old Spaniard only one leg short of completing the Triple Crown of wins at Le Mans, Indy 500 and F1’s Monaco GP, which he has won twice.
Britain’s Graham Hill is the only driver to manage the feat so far when he won at Le Mans in 1972.
Alonso raced the Indy 500 for the first time last year but an engine failure with 20 laps left ruined his chances.
Asked if he would consider leaving F1 altogether and joining IndyCar for a full season next year, Alonso said that he needed to see what the “driver lineups in some of the top (F1) teams will be.”
“And after that, just see what the future brings (.) on the Triple Crown and whatever feels attractive,” he said.
Alonso won the F1 title in 2005 and 2006, but his 32nd and last race victory was in 2013 while with Ferrari.
He has failed to finish the past two F1 races and has yet to place higher than fifth this year with McLaren.