McLaren and Toyota have reached a long rumoured agreement which will allow Fernando Alonso to compete with Toyota Gazoo Racing in not only the 24 Hours of Le Mans but also at non clashing FIA WEC rounds alongside his F1 commitments.
From the release below, the only event Alonso won’t be able to compete in for WEC in 2018 is Fuji which is Round 4 of the championship in October. Due to the complicated structure of the current FIA WEC calendar though which stretches over effectively two seasons, it remains to be seen whether Alonso can compete at Sebring, Spa and Le Mans in 2019 dependent on what the F1 calendar for 2019 actually looks like.
Alonso will compete in the #8 Toyota TS050 HYBRID alongside Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima with Anthony Davidson moving over to become the test and reserve driver within the team.
I think from the FIA WEC perspective, this is better news than Alonso just entering for Le Mans. Whilst entering Le Mans grabs headlines, a commitment in part at least to the series itself away from the headline event in a rather challenging time for the FIA WEC shows the interest from F1 stars in competing in the series is still present.
The press release from McLaren follows:
McLaren has confirmed it will allow Fernando Alonso to compete in upcoming rounds of the World Endurance Championship, including this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, after reaching agreement with both Fernando and Toyota Gazoo Racing.
McLaren and Fernando are in full agreement that Formula 1 remains their shared top priority. As such, Fernando will compete in every round of the 2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship, and will dovetail his sports car commitments around grands prix.
As a result, he will not contest WEC’s Japanese round, at the Fuji Speedway on October 21, due to it clashing with the US Grand Prix, held at the Circuit of the Americas, in Austin, Texas.
Zak Brown, Executive Director, McLaren Technology Group, said:
“It’s no secret that Fernando has wanted to contest the Le Mans 24 Hours. And I think everybody within our organisation appreciates that a motivated, hungry and happy world-class driver such as Fernando is a formidable asset for any team in F1.
“Last year, we came to the joint decision to go racing with Fernando at the Indy 500 rather than at the Monaco Grand Prix. But 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.”
Fernando Alonso said:
“I’ve never been shy about my aim of winning motorsport’s ‘Triple Crown’ – the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. 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.
“In no way will this challenge take away from my main target of Formula 1 with McLaren. In 2018, my aim is to be competitive at every grand prix, and I feel sure that we are closer to achieving that.”