Two time ex world champion Fernando Alonso will make his Le Mans 24-hour race debut this year after getting permission to take a leave of absence from Formula One by his team McLaren. “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,” the team announced on Tuesday.
McLaren stressed that F1 was still Alonso’s main priority, and as such he will compete in every round of the 2018 season. Last year the Spaniard missed the Monaco Grand Prix to compete in the Indianapolis 500 as part of his dream of winning motor sport’s Triple Crown of Monaco, the Indy 500 and Le Mans. The feat has only been achieved by one other driver Graham Hill.
“We tried for Indy last year, came close, but just missed out,” Alonso 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.” Alonso gained experience for Le Mans in the Daytona endurance race in Florida on Sunday where he finished 38th.
McLaren executive director Zak Brown said that the team supported Alonso’s Le Mans dream as “our organization appreciates that a motivated, hungry and happy world-class driver such as Fernando is a formidable asset for any team in F1”.
Brown added that like Alonso, McLaren are “racers at heart” which is built “on a brave heritage of competing and succeeding in different forms of the sport”. This year’s Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe is scheduled for June 16-17 between the Montreal and Austrian Grand Prix.