Fernando Alonso, United Autosports, Daytona, 2018

Alonso to race for Toyota at Le Mans and other WEC rounds apart from Fuji

2018 F1 season

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Fernando Alonso will compete in the world endurance championship for Toyota this year, McLaren has announced.

The team announced Alonso will participate in “upcoming” rounds of the championship but not the October race in Fuji, which clashes with the United States Grand Prix. That leaves four other races this year Alonso is expected to participate in: the Six Hours of Spa in May, Le Mans 24 Hours in June, Six Hours of Silverstone in August and Six Hours of Shanghai in November.

Fernando Alonso, Toyota, World Endurance Championship, Bahrain, 2017
Alonso tested for Toyota in November
The World Endurance Championship is running a ‘super season’ through this year and next which includes races in Sebring, Spa and Le Mans in 2019.

The two-times world champion has set himself the target of winning the ‘Triple Crown’ of motorsport – the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans 24 Hours and Indianapolis 500. He took part in the latter race last year.

“I’ve never been shy about my aim of winning motorsport’s ‘Triple Crown’,” said Alonso. “We tried for Indy last year, came close, but just missed out.”

“This year, I have the chance thanks to McLaren to race for the win at Le Mans. It is a big challenge – much can go wrong – but I am ready, prepared and looking forward to the fight.”

“My deal to race in WEC was only made possible through the good understanding and strong relationship I have with McLaren, and I’m very happy that they listened and understood what this means to me.”

Alonso denied the plan might be a distraction from his F1 duties.

“In no way will this challenge take away from my main target of Formula 1 with McLaren,” he said. “In 2018, my aim is to be competitive at every grand prix, and I feel sure that we are closer to achieving that.”

McLaren group executive director Zak Brown said the team wanted to ensure Alonso remains “motivated, hungry and happy”.

“We’ve always said that we would consider each opportunity on a case-by-case basis, and we both know that, in 2018, our core priority is success in Formula 1.”

“Like Fernando, at McLaren we’re racers at heart, and our team is built on a brave heritage of competing and succeeding in different forms of the sport. Equally important is the confidence that nothing detracts from our number one goal of Formula 1. After proper evaluation, we are satisfied that this campaign does not do that, and that McLaren’s best interests prevail.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 40 comments on “Alonso to race for Toyota at Le Mans and other WEC rounds apart from Fuji”

    1. While it is great seeing Alonso getting the chance to take part in other series, I think this should still be encouraged more by F1 teams. Over the last couple of years the chains seem to have been loosened with Stroll and Alonso at Daytona, Sainz at Rally Monaco and Hulkenberg winning Le Mans 2 years ago. This can only be a good thing for the community as a whole.

      1. @jonners99 Sainz didn’t actually take part in the Monte-Carlo Rally. He just drove one stage in a pace-car at non-competitive speeds, so it isn’t quite the same as if he was there actually to compete.

        1. My mistake, read an article about him trying not to crash it so thought he drove the stages at a competitive pace.

      2. There are hardly any “chains” at Williams preventing Stroll from doing whatever he wants. Laurence Stroll pays $35 million per season for that Williams seat, and any lawyer would have drawn the contract to require those monies are deposited in Williams’ bank account regardless of whether li’l Lance is physically capable of driving. If Lance breaks his legs skiing, or his arm in a wreck at Daytona 24, or has the flu, too bad for the Strolls because Williams relies on that money and would never have agreed to the deal unless the payments were airtight.

        1. I’m sure it is just as likely Stroll can’t just do whatever he wants, as he will have been contracted to race all the F1 races this season for Williams, and I’m sure that’s what he wants to do. All drivers are at risk getting the flu or getting injured while training, or even in testing or practice or on a race weekend in F1, and teams have contingency plans for that, such as Kubica in Williams’ case. I’m sure all teams and their sponsors, and/or pay drivers, and/or drivers bringing sponsorship all agree ahead of time by contract what the monies are and the timing of said monies dispensation, well ahead of a season, so they can commit to budgets. Nothing unusual to see here with Williams and the Strolls.

          1. You are confused about the nature of this contract: the Stroll’s purchased the Williams seat. That is fundamentally different than, e.g., Ferrari purchasing the services of Vettel.

            The Strolls must pay regardless of whether or not Lance drives, e.g., if he is hurt or ill. Williams must provide the car for Lance. Williams could not care less what Lance does with his free time as they have not bought his services.

            Ferrari must pay Vettel regardless of whether or not Vettel drives, e.g., if he is hurt or ill. Vettel must race only for Ferrari. Ferrari can tell Vettel what he can or can’t do in his free time as they have bought his services for F1 weekends and have a right to protect what they have bought.

            See the difference?

            1. Yeah it is a bit like renting a car versus being hired as a driver. Stroll rented the team from williams and as such stroll needs to pay whether he actually drives or not. If you rent a car and don’t use it you still pay for it.

              Meanwhile ferrari hired vettel to drive. It is responsibility of vettel fulfill his contract. If a company hires you they can make you write ndas and non-compete clauses. Same with sponsors. That being said I tried googling but did not find any legal info about how an employee contract could prevent the person from doing motocross or other extreme sport. I’d guess some kind of negligence thing could apply if the injury happened because of recklessness but can they legally forbid a driver from doing some things?

            2. @Gary Firstly I know you are bitter about the whole Stroll/Williams deal and you don’t think LS belongs in F1 and he wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for his Dad’s money. So I take that into account when I consider the choice of wording you use. I’m sure you were not in the room nor have seen the fine print of their contract, nor of SV’s with Ferrari.

              Where you claim the Stroll’s bought the seat, I’m sure Williams would say they hired a qualified driver who brought needed money not unlike many drivers have done before.

              Where you claim Stroll can do whatever he wants and Williams don’t care as they have not bought his services, is just select, impractical wording on your part that is pure speculation. I would be surprised if Stroll can do whatever he wants on F1 race weekends that he is contracted to participate in. And it is moot as Stroll seems motivated to be an F1 driver so this freedom he has is irrelevant. He likely won’t be sabotaging his own goal of succeeding in F1.

              So your issue comes down to that Vettel can’t do whatever he wants because they have bought his services. Ferrari and SV would likely word it that they hired a 4 time WDC. Given that he is the highest paid in F1, I would suggest that they value him, and that if SV wanted some freedom to run select other races here or there, or go skiing on an off weekend, he can, even if that had to be written into the contract.

              But your last sentence before ‘see the difference’ makes no sense. You seem confused when you say Ferrari can tell SV what he can and can’t do in his free time, as they have bought his services for F1 weekends. Well, to me F1 weekends are not free time weekends. They are the weekends SV willingly will use to contest the F1 Championships that he has willingly sat down and negotiated a contract to do so with Ferrari. Free time is time when he is not racing or doing promotional work for Ferrari, and while there is the possibility that SV isn’t allowed to go skiing for example, that will have been something he would have agreed to at the negotiating table.

              To make it sound like only Lance can do whatever he wants because of their money and all others are ‘chained’ is disingenuous rhetoric shaped to discredit the Strolls and Williams as you have no time for them…obviously. SV likely has as much freedom to determine the conditions under which he races and spends his free time, and FA obviously has an ally in Zak Brown who has helped him expedite participating in races that they couldn’t have known would be possible or desireable to do at the time he first signed for McHonda.

              Just another point… I read that the Daytona event has likely helped as a tuneup for Stroll and Stroll himself has said he is a different driver now than 2017, so Williams is likely a willing ally in Stroll getting this extra racing experience, and it is hardly how you would make it sound which is like the Strolls can give Williams the finger any time they want as long as the cheque is in the mail. It just isn’t the way you prefer to portray things. There Stroll/Williams relationship, for practical purposes of contesting the Championships, is much more similar to all other driver/team relationships than you like to claim.

            3. Why am I getting these messages? I have not ever posted here that I can recall. You are getting the wrong Gary.

    2. I have had a like hate view of Alonso over the years, first I liked him for the way he beat the arrogant cheat Schumacher, then I hated him for his juvenile behaviour and whistle blowing at McLaren. However, following the much more praiseworthy loyalty he has shown in sticking with McLaren during their terrible association with Honda, and his ability to drag far far more than most other drivers could have done out of a car that was virtually useless, he started to creep back into favour with me again. Now, having done the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 24 hour, and in the future going to do Le Mans, I have to say that my respect for him is returning very very rapidly. By taking part in the other racing disciplines he is showing the traits of a true racing driver, like Moss and Graham Hill, something that I would like to see in a lot of the other drivers on the grid. I wish him every success in the Le Mans and hope that he continues to race in other sports as well as F1.

      1. “Arrogant cheat Schumacher”
        After 15 years you still are not able to swallow the lessons he gave your idols!

        1. Well said!

        2. He was arrogant and he was a cheat, facts. No swallowing of anything needed, by me anyway.

      2. following the much more praiseworthy loyalty he has shown in sticking with McLaren during their terrible association with Honda

        I, of course, don’t want to make you change your mind on who you admire as a driver and why you admire them, even though I don’t agree with most of your statement, but that is your opinion, and to each their own.

        But particularly the subject of loyalty, and while they might sell it as that, it was just lack of other options, Alonso would much rather be in a win capable car than in the McLaren.

        1. A very well made point Joao. However, given his tendency to throw his dummy out of his pram I was half expecting him to walk out on McLaren without finishing the season, and, given the dire state of the car and its performance, his lawyers would probably be more than capable of handling any contract problems. He did not do so, and this surprised me. However, as I said before, your point is well made and very true.

      3. @malc1110 Or Ickx just to name one; Dakar, Le Mans, F1, Bathurst, he’s done it all but Indy…

    3. Obligatory observaton that this pairing brings together the unluckiest team in the WEC with the unluckiest driver in F1.

      I strongly suspect this was only made possible thanks to McLaren dropping Honda. I can’t see Honda execs wanting to see a Honda driver skipping out to go drive for a rival.

      I’m really excited by this, though it’s a shame that this has come at the expense of Davidson. He’s such a great endurance driver who deserves better than being sidelined.

      1. If you call Alonso unlucky, how do you call the drivers that never won a race or a championship?.

      2. I strongly suspect this was only made possible thanks to McLaren dropping Honda. I can’t see Honda execs wanting to see a Honda driver skipping out to go drive for a rival.

        if this was still Dennis’s McLaren, I could see they doing it this year specifically to spite Honda, and knowing Alonso he might agree as well… ;)

        but truth is Toyota will allow certainly take Le Mans this year and Alonso and McLaren will not pass this opportunity

        1. *most certainly

        2. @arrows98 I’m not so sure that Toyota are guaranteed to win Le Mans. They’re only running two cars, which is a risky strategy – if you average it out, over the duration of a 24h race one car may retire/crash, another may spend a long time in the pits for repairs. You take a third because generally speaking you’ll then have at least one car that’ll have a relatively trouble-free race. No guarantees of course. But just look back over the past few years. On Toyota’s first attempt since their return, they were running at a pace that could have won the race, out in the front. In the end one car retired, and another spent a long time in the pits. Same race – one Audi crashed out, another spent a long time in the pits. Audi brought three cars though, and won the race. Potentially had Toyota brought a third, it may have been a different story.

          Absolutely on pace the Toyota will be the fastest car there by a pretty hefty margin, which also means they’re unlikely to be pushed to run at a pace they can’t handle. So I think you have to consider them favourites. But it’s by no means guaranteed that either Toyota will make tne end of the race. And as bitter past experience will show, the race isn’t won until you cross the finish line…

          1. @mazdachris I agree with everything you just said, but it’s still Alonso’s safest bet: all things considered, this year you want a good shot at winning Le Mans, you better be in a Toyota…

    4. Good news for Alonso and fans, of course. An exciting season is waiting for us.
      Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but notice that McLaren quite literally bent over Fernando this year.
      They paid him a likely insane amount of money, they brought his clothing company onboard as a sponsor and now they allow him to do a full WEC schedule!

      1. Yeah why not, I say. He’s remained loyal to them, and he is touted by many as the best driver in F1, so with Zak Brown’s help they’ve been able to pull off the logistics of it all. FA stays fulfilled, and hopefully will be moreso in F1 this season for a change, and Mac will get publicity for their man being at these other races…win, win all around. Going to be an exciting season to see how FA fares in F1 and WEC.

        1. @robbie it is not loyalty when there isn’t anywhere else to go

          Too much focus on keeping FA happy, time will tell at what cost for McLaren, so far they haven’t ripped a lot from it

          1. @johnmilk Perhaps but I suppose he could have just chosen to not drive last year. Contract or not, a driver cannot be shackled to the car if he doesn’t want to drive it, and he’s willing to pay the financial penalty if there’s no performance clause giving him an out.

            I don’t see how the focus on keeping FA happy has been too much, and obviously nobody in the world, including Honda, predicted what ended up happening at Mac…so…unique circumstances given we’re dealing with a mega star with limited time left in F1. To say they haven’t ripped a lot from keeping FA happy (and there) is disingenuous as he cannot perform miracles with a pu that obviously was nowhere. Bottom line, they still have him and presumably he’ll have more to work with next year.

            1. thing is @robbie Alonso still wants the third world title, if he does not drive for McLaren there isn’t any other place to go in F1, at his age if he leaves he won’t be relevant anymore, so he has to stay in business, he has to stay active and if that comes with a huge paycheck better yet for him. Make no mistake, Alonso’s actions are ultimately to his own benefit! There is no problem in that and others most likely would have done the same, but there is no loyalty here.

              Of course, he cannot make any miracles, and because of that we go back to that old question, since F1 is mostly about the equipment, is it worth it to spend so much of a team’s budget only on the driver? They couldn’t have predicted what happened, but they choose to keep him still, what good is it if he (his own words) had the best qualifying/race of his career, if that concludes in a pointless finish? Now there is this whole apparatus going around with him, promoting him while he attempts to reach his goals, but what is in it for McLaren, one of their drivers won LeMans? Maybe Indy? Maybe they can tell they have a driver that won the triple crown? but it wasn’t with them, they just let him do it. Definitely this is all fine and great that we have drivers crossing categories, but that is good for us fans and for the drivers doing so (in this case Alonso), for the teams? Almost nothing, in this case they just keep their most expensive asset happy, if they think it is worth it, good for them.

              I guess we have too divergent point of views on the matter, but hey at least we have some fun on the internet.

            2. Mclaren are in the business of selling sports cars, having Alonso going off doing other race series helps do that, especially helpful after the Honda years. It’s marketing genius.

    5. If they had a sense of humour they would put Alonso, Villeneuve and Montoya in the same car for the le mans round

      1. Or they’d say, well, that’s the old triple crown. Now you need the Formula E title.

        1. Or the eSports title…

    6. Although I absolutely love Alonso is coming to the WEC I can’t help but already put an imaginary asterisk in front of his triple crown. Surely winning this years Le Mans won’t the hardest ever with the two Toyota cars each basically having a 50% chance of the win if they finish. That being said, who cares, we’ve got a F1 ace in sportscar racing once more, just a shame it wasn’t with Webber and Porsche.

      This does pose a potential problem, do I line up at the RSR stands for autographs or try to be one of the many many at Spa to get a glimpse of Fernando Alonso,…

      1. @flatsix I will be honest with you, I don’t follow WEC, but from what I’ve been reading there will be 3/4 LMP1 teams. Toyota appears of course as the favourite, but could one of the others “pull a Brawn GP”? What really is their possibilities within the frame of endurance racing and the WEC rule book? Are we talking the same level of competitiveness as in F1, where budget and overall integration of car build within the same team gives a massive advantage, or an independent could aspire to succeed in the series?

        1. @johnmilk I’m not suspecting any of the real new teams to win from Toyota on pace, so if there’s one who could win if all runs smooths it’s the Rebellion team who’ll be running two Porsche P1 drivers along with regulars Beche and Senna. If I’m not mistaken one of the cars will also see Menezes from Signatech. The ByKolles team is worthless as ever, Ginetta car might be fun but if even Porsche couldn’t do it on their return in 2014 I’m not expecting some small British marque to do it. There’s some good stories into P1 but I think they’ll wish they’d stayed in LMP2 by the end of the season.

    7. Forza Nando! Go win that LeMans!

    8. I’m happy to see Alonso will be driving at Le Mans and several WEC races throughout the year, but this also feels like a concession by McLaren/Alonso that they won’t be battling for the championship (not that that’s too much of a surprise), and so splitting their #1 driver’s attention with another race series (and increasing the likelihood of injury/fatigue/logistical problems along with it) won’t hurt their position. If they were going into the season confident that they’d be running near the top of the field, they’d be a lot less willing to jeopardize that.

      I’m not surprised, just less hopeful of a miracle turnaround with a new supplier.

    9. I’m surprised Toyota dropped Davidson to make way for Alonso. True he’s the oldest driver in the team but I always thought he was one of the quickest still. It’s always difficult to find direct comparison of lap times published from endurance races to really know for sure.

      Either way it’s exciting.

    10. Much has been said of Liberty Media bringing F1 closer to the fans, but you have to hand it to Alonso and Mclaren in going out and taking it to more potential fans too. It’s great to see the exclusivity of F1 giving way a bit, and I look forward to watching more drivers do similar things in the coming years.

    11. For me, the fact that Alonso is racing in WEC means two things:
      1) McLaren won’t fight for the WDC or WCC this year. Either the new Renault power unit is bad, or the chassis isn’t so good after they fitted a new engine in it. Or both.
      2) A win in 24 hours of LeMans will not mean anything because there’s only Toyota, no Porsche or Audi or another manufacturer team. What’s the point of winning without a real combat for the top place?
      I also don’t like seeing Davidson out of WEC, but he may attend more F1 races and provide good analysis of how drivers are going on the track (I mean, di Resta was terrible at that).

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