Last weekend in Daytona, Fernando Alonso stated that his chances of racing at Le Mans this year was “50/50.” Those chances are now nearly 100/0 as Toyota GAZOO Racing announced Monday that Alonso will be part of the team as often as his Formula One commitments allow him to be.
That doesn’t just mean that Le Mans is on the table, but the vast majority of the rest of the FIA World Endurance Championship “super series” as well. As of now, the only direct conflict in 2018 is with the 6 Hours of Fuji in October. That race is scheduled for the same day at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas. Conflicts with the three races in 2019 are unclear right now and will continue to be unclear until later this year.
Alonso is thrilled to join up with Toyota.
“I am very excited to participate in the Le Mans 24 Hours for the first time,” Alonso said in a press release. “It is a race which I have followed closely for a long time and it has always been an ambition of mine to participate. Endurance racing is a different discipline compared to single-seaters and I enjoyed my first taste of it at Daytona. I am looking forward to working together with, and learning from, Sébastien [Buemi] and Kazuki [Nakajima], who are both very experienced endurance drivers. It will be a steep learning curve for me but I am ready for this challenge and I can’t wait to get started.”
Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corporation, believes that Alonso can only benefit the team.
“I am looking forward to seeing how much TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will grow when our drivers and all team members take what they have learned thus far in endurance racing and add to it what they will gain from Fernando’s experience,” Toyoda said. “The entire team is excited about this opportunity for growth. Through the challenge of WEC endurance races and, among those, on the grueling roads of the Le Mans 24 Hours, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will do its best, together with Fernando, to outdrive the competition.”
Alonso will be driving the No. 8 Toyota alongside the aforementioned Buemi and Nakajima, both former Formula One drivers in their own right. Alonso will effectively replace Anthony Davidson in the car. Davidson will remain with the team as a reserve and development driver. Given Alonso’s schedule, he’ll likely bare minimum at Fuji. The No. 7 will be driven by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José Maria López, a lineup unchanged from 2017.
The 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship season starts with the 6 Hours of Spa-Francochamps on May 5, which is an off-week for Formula One in between Azerbaijan and Spain.