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Toyota, Alonso Steal The Show At Le Mans

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 17 2018

The No. 8Toyota, with Fernando Alonso co-driving, was the overall winner at Le Mans on Sunday.

Spanish driver Fernando Alonso moved within one victory of accomplishing international auto racing’s triple crown on Sunday when he and his Toyota teammates won the overall championship at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Alonso, who has twice won the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monaco and is currently a full-time driver for the McLaren F1 team, captured Le Mans on his first attempt.

The third leg of the triple crown is the Indianapolis 500, which he had a shot to win in 2017 – that shot ended when his Andretti Autosport Honda engine blew with 21 laps to go.

“We were leading the race, close to winning,” Alsonso told the media Sunday, “but we missed the opportunity.

“Here, we were leading the race and I was worried I would miss the opportunity again but here we achieved it.”

The only driver to win the triple was Britain’s Graham Hill.

Sunday’s win was the first overall for Toyota, which in recent years, had been deprived at Le Mans by LMP1 powerhouses Audi and Porsche. With both of those German marques absent this year, only the Toyota fielded all-powerful hybrid cars in the top class and finished first and second.

The No. 8 Toyota TS050 hybrid, which was driven on the final stint by Kazuki Nakajima of Japan and also co-driven by Sebastian Buemi, finished two laps in front of the No. 7 sister car, which was co-driven by  Britain’s Mike Conway, Japan’s Kamui Kobayashi and Argentine Jose Maria Lopez.

“It’s an amazing feeling [to win],” Alonso said. “Right now I’m maybe still in a little bit [of] shock because we were so focused on the race and so stressed at the end watching the television.

“I’m not used to watching my car racing, I’m normally in it. It was quite a tense 24 hours, with two cars within one minute [for] more or less the whole race.”

Finishing third in LMP1 – 12 laps off the pace – was the No. 3 Rebellion Racing machine, which was driven at the end by Gustavo Menzes.

Claiming class victories were the No. 28 G-Drive Racing in LMP2, the No. 92 Porsche 911 RS in GTE Pro and the No. 77 Porsche 911 of Dempsey-Proton Racing.

Driving the No. 28 G-Drive Oreca Jean-Eric Vergne, Andrea Pizzitola and Romain Rusinov.

The G-Drive LMP2 car was followed by the No. 36 Signatech Alpine Matmut team in second and the No. 39 Graff-S024 team in third.

Piloting the GTE Pro winning Porsche were Lauens Vanthoor, Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen.

“It’s crazy,” Vanthoor said. “I’ve been doing a lot of races with Kevin and at the Nürburgring we were leading, and we dropped out. Last year, we had the pace to win, and something went wrong. Now, it just worked out and we won Le Mans. It’s amazing. For me personally, it’s a big 24-hour race and it’s crazy.”

The No. 91 Porsche GT Team finished second and the No. 68 Ford GT of Chip Ganassi Racing finshed third.

The No. 77 Dempsey – Proton Racing Porsche 911 team took first in the GTE Am class, followed by the No. 54 Spirit of Race team in second and the No. 85 Keating Motorsports team in third.

Julien Andlauer, Christian Ried and Matt Campbell drove the Dempsey car.

(This story will be updated shortly)

 

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 17 2018
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