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Toyota Confirms Alonso LMP1 Debut in Bahrain Rookie Test

Toyota Gazoo Racing confirms Fernando Alonso for Sunday’s Bahrain Rookie Test…

Photo: LAT/McLaren

Toyota Gazoo Racing has confirmed that two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso will get his first taste of an LMP1 car on Sunday in Bahrain at the FIA World Endurance Championship Rookie Test, building momentum ahead of a possible appearance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Alonso, 36, has long stated his desire to race at the Circuit de la Sarthe as part of his bid to become just the second driver in history to win the ‘triple crown’ of motorsport, made up of Le Mans, the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix.

Thanks to a lack of clashes with his F1 commitments in 2018, Alonso is free to race at the 24 Hours Le Mans next year, with his McLaren team offering its blessing to race for another team in order to further his  pursuits outside of grand prix racing.

As reported by Sportscar365 last week after indications from multiple sources, Alonso will sample the Toyota TS050 Hybrid car at the Bahrain International Circuit on Sunday in the Rookie Test, and is due to complete a significant amount of running. 

While Toyota is yet to confirm its racing plans for the WEC 2018/19 ‘Super Season’, the Japanese manufacturer is expected to continue with a two-car effort, making Alonso a strong candidate for a seat at Le Mans.

The break down in McLaren’s partnership with Honda, a rival Japanese manufacturer to Toyota, has made a deal with Alonso possible, with the British marque linking up with Renault from 2018.

The signing of the deal for Alonso to test for Toyota in Bahrain is understood to have been held up by sticking points over the existing partnership between McLaren and Honda, who still have one final F1 race together in Abu Dhabi next weekend before parting company.

However, the details were ironed out in time for Alonso to feature in Bahrain, with the Spaniard arriving in the kingdom on Saturday to attend the race as a guest of the royal family, which holds shares in the McLaren Group.

“We are very excited that Fernando will test our car. When he visited us in Cologne everyone who met him could sense his enthusiasm and passion for our sport; he is a true racer,” Toyota team president Hisatake Murata said.

“We very much respect his interest in different forms of motorsport and it is a pleasure to offer him this chance to drive a hybrid LMP1 car. It will be interesting to hear his feedback on the TS050 Hybrid.”

Toyota will field two cars in the five-hour Rookie Test on Sunday in Bahrain, with Alonso set to share track time with LMP2 racer Thomas Laurent and full-time Toyota driver Mike Conway.

Alonso will make his sports car race debut in the Rolex 24 at Daytona with United Autosports in January in order to prepare for a possible Le Mans shot, driving the team’s Ligier JS P217 Gibson alongside Lando Norris and Phil Hanson.

Luke Smith is a British motorsport journalist who has served as NBC Sports’ lead Formula 1 writer since 2013, as well as working on its online sports car coverage.

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