LONDON (Reuters) - McLaren’s Fernando Alonso will race the next two editions of the Le Mans 24 Hours with favourites Toyota while also combining a world endurance campaign with Formula One this season.
McLaren and Toyota made the announcement, which had been widely expected and is likely to be one of the talking points of the motorsport year, in separate statements on Tuesday.
“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,” the double Formula One world champion said.
“We tried for Indy last year, came close, but just missed out,” added the Spaniard, who led at Indianapolis before a late engine failure. “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.”
The 36-year-old, who has a one year contract with options at McLaren, raced in the 24 Hours of Daytona last weekend as preparation for Le Mans.
Toyota were the obvious team to link up with as the sole manufacturer remaining in the top LMP1 category following the departure of World Endurance (WEC) champions Porsche.
McLaren executive director Zak Brown said he was satisfied Alonso’s Le Mans commitments would not detract from his main job in Formula One.
McLaren are starting a new partnership with Renault this season and hoping to get back on the podium after three difficult years with Honda, Toyota’s domestic rivals.
Alonso will miss the Japanese leg of the WEC season at Fuji on Oct. 21 since that clashes with the U.S. Formula One Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.
“It’s no secret that Fernando has wanted to contest the Le Mans 24 Hours,” Brown said.
“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.”
Toyota said Alonso would be sharing their number eight TS050 hybrid car with Switzerland’s Sebastien Buemi and Japanese Kazuki Nakajima, both ex-Formula One drivers.
Alonso will make his WEC debut at Spa-Francorchamps, the Belgian Grand Prix circuit, for the Six Hours race in May.
The 2018-19 WEC “super season” includes two editions of Le Mans for the first time as a move towards a championship that will start in the European summer and end with the French endurance classic.
Additional reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond