Double Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso will have the unique opportunity to compete at the famous 24-hour Le Mans race and other selected World Endurance Championship rounds this year, his McLaren team confirmed.
However, McLaren and Alonso have agreed that his priority remains Formula 1 – so he will miss the Japanese race at Fuji on October 21 because it clashes with the United States Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso commented that he was delighted at the opportunity to take part in sportscar racing alongside his Formula 1 ambitions.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
McLaren executive director Zak Brown said his team had no problem in giving Alonso permission to race elsewhere, because it felt a boost to his motivation would be beneficial to its Grand Prix hopes.
“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,” said Brown.
“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.”
This is exciting times for the motorsport fans as the most complete Formula 1 driver – in terms of experience and skills – is racing at the most famous 24-hour event. Best of luck to Fernando Alonso and I hope he can emulate Nico Huldenberg by winning Le Mans.