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Toyota and Alonso have won a dramatic Le Mans 24 Hours
Conspiracy theories fly as Toyota's LMP1 cars swap places at the death
Toyota has won the Le Mans 24 Hours for the second year running, with its pair of TS050 hybrids completing an arguably inevitable one-two in the 2019 race.
Though not one without drama. As the final hour of the race approached, the number 7 car of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez seemed set for victory, sitting a comfortable lap ahead of the number 8 car of Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima.
Which would have stopped ‘Nando waving goodbye to his stint as Toyota sportscar racer with a win. Enter a puncture and subsequently cocked-up tyre change for number 7, putting the Nakajima-driven number 8 into the lead and first to the chequered flag, finishing almost 17 seconds ahead of its sister car.
A genuine cock-up? The conspiracy theories are showering as wildly as the champagne, given how much bigger the headlines end up being for an Alonso win. Yikes.
Rounding off the podium were yet more former F1 drivers with Stoffel Vandoorne and Vitaly Petrov racing in the third-placed SMP Racing prototype alongside Mikhall Aleshin.
Elsewhere, the Signatech Alpine Matmut team won the LMP2 class and AF Corse Ferrari the GTE Pro class, after pole-sitters Aston Martin saw the boost on its Vantages strangled thanks to the controversial Balance of Performance regulations that try to create tighter racing, sometimes at the apparent expense of common sense. A bittersweet weekend for Aston, then, after it announced on the eve of this year’s race its Valkyrie will race for outright Le Mans victory in 2021.
The Ford GT’s GTE Pro swansong didn’t end on the podium, but all four retro-liveried Pro cars finished the race, and there was a victory for the wonderful Wynn’s GT car in the GTE Am class by Keating Motorsports. Expect the GT’s endurance racing career to live on in the amateur classes.
This was the second running of the Le Mans 24 Hours in what’s become known as the World Endurance Championship’s ‘super season’, the race wrapping up the championship and – yes – victory for Toyota. Another one-two, in fact, with the number 8 car of Alonso, Buemi and Nakajima fittingly taking the title.
Toyota will be back next year, in the final year of the current Le Mans regulations before the hypercar era dawns. You’d be a fool to bet against it bagging a third consecutive win around La Sarthe.