Alonso’s debut season in the WEC
Two-time F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso has certainly made an impression in the world of endurance racing.
Since his WEC debut just over 12 months ago, Alonso leaves the series a World Champion and five-time WEC race winner including two victories at Le Mans: no easy feat.
Alonso will be replaced in the Toyota Gazoo Racing squad by New Zealand’s Brendon Hartley for Season 8, but the popular Spaniard has not ruled out a return to the WEC or the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the future.
There is no doubt that Alonso’s WEC adventure has made him a more rounded racing driver. A little over a year ago, he had little experience of the discipline, having only had an entry to the Rolex 24 at Daytona and limited testing in the Toyota TS050 HYBRID LMP1 car.
Alonso said himself he had “zero WEC experience” when he first joined Toyota Gazoo Racing for a full-season programme. Fast forward a year, and it’s incredible to think how much he has achieved but, above all, how much he has enjoyed the experience. He has publicly admitted his delight in learning about the teamwork, strategy and patience required to achieve success at this level.
Alonso’s WEC debut at Spa-Francorchamps started in the best possible way with a win but there was still plenty of room for improvement with the Spaniard admitting it was tough getting to grips with race traffic and the different machinery. By the next time out at Le Mans, Alonso looked much more at home in the LMP1 car and cruised to victory alongside team-mates Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima.
Since then, Alonso has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans (twice), the TOTAL 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (also twice!) and the 1000 Miles of Sebring. Alonso and the No. 8 car also triumphed at Silverstone but the team was later disqualified due to a technical infringement.
Alonso is quick to credit his team-mates [Buemi and Nakajima] and the entire team at Toyota Gazoo Racing for his achievements. At the post-race Le Mans press conference, Alonso also commended the efforts of the sister No. 7 car driven by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López – stating that they were more than just team-mates, but also firm friends too.
“I have enjoyed being part of Toyota Gazoo Racing in WEC,” explained Alonso. “Winning Le Mans is one of the highlights of my career as part of my Triple Crown challenge and I will always remember that. Now is a good time to take on new challenges but I’d like to take the opportunity to say thanks to all WEC and ACO members for such a warm welcome and experience… I’m sure I will come back to WEC races in the future and to Le Mans. I love this race, this championship and the atmosphere.”
There’s no denying that Alonso will miss the WEC, but it’s safe to say that the world of endurance racing will miss Alonso too.
We’re not saying goodbye to Fernando just yet though, it’s simply: see you soon!