LE MANS, France – The trio of Fernando Alonso, Kazuki Nakajima and Sébastien Buemi earned their second-straight victory in the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans on Sunday at Circuit de la Sarthe.
Driving the No. 8 Toyota TS050 fielded by Toyota Gazoo Racing, Alonso, Nakajima and Buemi also clinched the FIA World Endurance Championship with the victory.
For much of the event it appeared the Toyota sister car, the No. 7 driven by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez, was destined to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
However, with less than an hour left in the 24-hour classic, a tire puncture on the No. 7 entry with Lopez at the wheel forced him to bring the car to the pits. More than two minutes ahead of the No. 8 entry before the tire issue, Lopez returned to the track more than a minute behind in second.
That gave the No. 8 entry, driven by Nakajima during the final stint, the race lead by roughly a minute. Lopez was able to close the gap considerably in the final hour of the race, but he wasn’t able to catch Nakajima to challenge for the win and finished 16 seconds back in second.
“The main goal this weekend was to win the championship, obviously the race was not playing to us,” Alonso said. “Car No. 7 was quicker than us for 24 hours. They really deserved the victory, but today the luck decided that we have to take the trophy.
“Luck sometimes plays an important part in motorsport. Today we feel extremely lucky. Maybe we don’t deserve it, but we’ll take it.”
SMP Racing’s No. 11 BR Engineering BR1, driven by Vitaly Petrov, Mikhail Aleshin and Stoffel Vandoorne, finished a distant third overall, six laps behind the pace set by the leading Toyota squads.
In LMP2, Signatech Alpine’s No. 36 Alpine A470-Gibson driven by Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negrao and Pierre Thiriet won for the second-straight season. The team snatched the lead from G-Drive Racing in the 19th hour and never gave it back, winning by a lap over the No. 38 of Jackie Chan DC Racing driven by Ho-Pin Tung, Gabriel Aubry and Stephane Richelmi.
Ferrari scored its first GTE Pro victory at Le Mans since 2014, but it came as the result of heartbreak for Corvette Racing.
An unlucky caution period for the No. 63 Corvette Racing entry driven by Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Mike Rockenfeller trapped the car at the end of pit road during the 21st hour, handing the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE of James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra the race lead that they wouldn’t give up.
Lastly, in GTE Am, the Keating Motorsports squad became the first Ford GT privateer squad to win at Le Mans.
The No. 85 entry, driven by team owner Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Felipe Fraga, survived a late stop-and-go-penalty levied against Keating for spinning the wheels on the Ford GT. The penalty dropped the class lead for Keating Motorsports to less than five seconds, but with Bleekemolen at the wheel the team was able to hang on to collect the victory.