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Alonso “Surprised” by Button’s Le Mans Drive

Fernando Alonso didn’t expect former teammate Jenson Button to join Le Mans LMP1 grid…

Photo: McLaren

Fernando Alonso says he was surprised by former Formula 1 teammate Jenson Button’s decision to contest this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Two-time Formula 1 champion Alonso, who won on his FIA World Endurance Championship debut with Toyota at Spa two weeks ago, will race directly against Button for overall honors at the French endurance classic.

Button, the 2009 Formula 1 world champion, meanwhile, will suit up for SMP Racing to drive a BR Engineering BR1 AER with Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin, while Alonso shares a Toyota TS050 Hybrid with Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi.

Alonso said that Button’s move to a full-time drive in Super GT for 2018 probably helped sway the Briton’s interest toward Le Mans and LMP1.

“It was a nice surprise when he joined Super GT in Japan, and now it’s even more surprising he wants to do Le Mans now,” said Alonso.

“I’m only happy, because I think he’s a great driver, a great talent. To have him in any series is good for everyone. I’m sure he will enjoy Le Mans.

“Probably because he’s enjoying Super GT, it opened his eyes that the prototype was a good thing to do.

“I think it’s good that he tries different things. I was teammates with him for a few years, and I raced with him for 16 years. He was not willing to try different series outside of Formula 1 before.”

Alonso and Button are both signed to contest the remainder of the WEC ‘Super Season’, which includes the next two editions of Le Mans.

Button turned his first laps behind the wheel of the BR1 AER at Magny-Cours last week after skipping the Total Six Hours of Spa to focus on Super GT’s visit to Fuji.

At Spa, the Toyotas had the edge over the non-hybrid competition, with both cars finishing two laps ahead of the third-placed Rebellion R13 Gibson.

Meanwhile, Petrov and Aleshin finished fifth in the car that Button will be driving next month.

When asked if he is happy to fight against Button at Le Mans,  Alonso said he expects the Toyotas to have the advantage, but isn’t discounting the likelihood of the pair meeting on track.

“Yeah, definitely. I think it’s good,” said Alonso. “Obviously we need to see how other teams are. I think [at Spa] we had the first balance.

“In the Prologue we saw already how fast they are, so we’ll see how we can do in Le Mans and if we are fighting together.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 and e-racing365, with a focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship and various electric racing series.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Pay Driver

    May 16, 2018 at 10:47 am

    Regulations forbid anyone from getting close to Toyota on both pace and economy, so Fernando won’t have to worry about Jenson unless Toyota wet themselves again.

    • TF110

      May 16, 2018 at 1:05 pm

      Not true. Racecar engineering website has a story on the Rebellion and it says that the ACO/FIA are expecting 3:13 at LM for the private teams. That’s where they are targetted. If you didn’t know, EOT can change for the private teams at any time also. So they can speed them up or slow them down.

      • Pay Driver

        May 16, 2018 at 1:23 pm

        This is from the 4/16/18 EoT document:

        “The gap will be defined between the best LMP1H and the best LMP1NH cars and should not be less than 0.25%.”

    • Tim Lawrence

      May 18, 2018 at 1:49 am

      True, which is why a Toyota victory at Le Mans would be completely hollow. Let them win so they can polish their corporate ego, then hopefully they will quit and we can get back to a level field for what can only, otherwise, be ‘best of the rest’.

  2. C Eisenhart

    May 16, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    Yawn! Motorsports, regulations and ridiculous speeds on circuits are BORING.
    If you have a front runner in qualifying, baring an accident, you win.
    Tell me a backmarker could pull a victory, at say Monaco, and I have a bridge to sell.
    I’m not a NASCAR fan, but subtle elements of drafting etc. make it interesting. All the other racing formats are just flat boring!

    • Frank

      May 16, 2018 at 12:51 pm

      You must have missed the Nürburgring 24 Hour this past weekend.

    • Blaneysellstrashbags@Ring24

      May 16, 2018 at 1:32 pm

      Name me a backmarker in NASCAR that has won a race in the past 20 years. I am not speaking of a team that was forced to the back due to tech reasons…I wanna hear about a car that qualified on speed in the back and won the race. It might have happened but I cannot recall one time.

    • Andy Flinn

      May 16, 2018 at 2:03 pm

      C Eisenhart, WEC P2 is just Gibson engines.

    • Dave

      May 16, 2018 at 2:26 pm

      I would be the first to say we have had several less than compelling races recently in both WEC and other series. However, to say that all regulated series do not produce exciting races is to say that you don’t watch them. Both the IMSA race at Mid Ohio and the VLN race mentioned by Frank already are recent examples of exciting races featuring different winning cars from either the previous year or previous race in the series.

      EoT will not put Toyota in jeopardy at Le Mans, but may try to make it interesting for the rest of the season. It will be Toyota’s to lose – just get a car across the line.

    • Larry

      May 16, 2018 at 6:10 pm

      NASCAR is more interesting?

      One of the more ignorant comments anyone has ever posted on this website.

      Go watch the last 90 minutes of this last weekends 24 hour race at Nurburgring in the rain.

      Not a NASCAR fan, but………………..what a joke.

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