Published On: Fri, Jun 15th, 2018

Le Mans 24 Hours 2018: Fernando Alonso on pole for Toyota | F1 | Sport

The two-time F1 world champion makes his Le Mans debut this weekend as part of his World Endurance Championship commitments.

The 36-year-old has made no secret of his hopes of winning the Triple Crown of Motorsport – the Indianapolis 500, Le Mans and the Monaco Grand Prix – with Graham Hill the only man to win all three races.

Alonso has won twice in Monaco, in 2006 and 2007, but was denied a shot at Indy 500 glory last year after an engine failure forced him to retire 179 laps into the famous 200-lap oval race. 

But he can complete two thirds of the Triple Crown should he win Le Mans with favourites Toyota. 

Alonso’s team-mate Kabuki Nakajima qualified fastest on Thursday night, two seconds ahead of Toyota’s sister team in second with a time of 3:15.377seconds on the Sarthe circuit, only half a second shy of the lap record. 

McLaren driver Alonso – who is also joined by Sebastien Buemi in the No 8 – set the fastest time in second qualifying, a session heavily interrupted by incidents, and also ran for an hour in the third and final session. 

Toyota’s other team of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez came in second.

Elsewhere, 2009 F1 champion Jenson Button will start in seventh for SMP Racing alongside Russian duo Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin.

Another familiar face is former F1 driver and current Sky Sports pundit Paul Di Resta, who starts off in 18th for United Autosports. 

Alonso and Toyota are the team tipped to win in France with the Japanese manufacturer the only entrants with a LM P1 hybrid car.

Button and their rivals are all operating LM P1 cars, but non-hybrid equivalents – meaning several handicaps are in place.

That means Alonso’s only opposition are Toyota’s other team – the No 7 – and their own reliability issues given their huge pace advantage, though they have been denied on multiple occasions over the past 19 years.

The Spaniard contested the Daytona 24 Hours in January, finishing 38th overall 90 laps down on the winners after brake issues.

The 86th 24 Hours of Le Mans race gets underway at 2pm on Saturday.

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Le Mans 24 Hours 2018: Fernando Alonso on pole for Toyota | F1 | Sport