In the wake of this week’s preseason testing with Toyota, Fernando Alonso is clearly fired up as he admits targeting the World Endurance Championship (WEC) title as well as Le Mans victory with Toyota Gazoo Racing this season.
Testing for the team started on Monday at Autodromo do Algarve, near Portimao in southern Portugal, with Alonso in action along with Toyota teammates José María López, Mike Conway, Anthony Davidson, Kamui Kobayashi, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi.
Toyota emerged “very happy” with the progress made over the three days with the new TS050 which will spearhead their campaign in the WEC including Le Mans. The team ran a 30-hours race simulation which was trouble-free.
Alonso whose goal of attaining motorsport’s fabled triple crown (victories at the Indy 500, Monaco and Le Mans) has gone one further and declared after the test, “The goal is not only to win at Le Mans, but to be world endurance champion and that’s only possible by doing the whole season.”
The double F1 World Champion, who cut a deal to race for Toyota and stay on with McLaren, is looking forward to this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, “It is a real challenge since the race pushes the car, the team, the mechanics, the drivers to the limit. The track has great straights, maximum speeds, night and low lighting driving – all these will be a challenge.”
“But [apart from Le Mans] I am also curious to see how the car behaves at circuits where I have raced in Formula 1, for example, Spa which we all love it will be fun to see how the Toyota compares there.”
The discipline of endurance racing is very different to the sprint nature of F1, and Alonso explains the difference, “It’s totally different because the type of race isn’t the same and the car is developed differently.”
“These races are focused on endurance and consistency, we have to prepare each stage in a different way. That’s different to F1 where you’re looking for maximum performance in a single race. Racing at such a professional and advanced level, such as is the case with WEC, will allow me to learn many things which I can take along with me for the future.”
“It’s a very good team, Toyota has so many years of experience The group of drivers are well versed in WEC competition, me adapting has taken less time because of the organisation. The car is excellent, it’s totally different to drive than a Formula 1, but you have to adjust and extract the most out of it.”
“I’m 100% sure I can succeed, I’m fine physically and I’m ready. Only at certain moments in your career can you attempt something like this, I’m there now.”
Alonso will have to miss the WEC prologue test at Paul Ricard clashes with the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend.
Toyota Motorsport chief Pascal Vasselon said, “He will be less experienced in traffic than his team-mates and Spa will be his first experience of this in our car. But he has already learnt about this at Daytona, so we have no concerns about this.”
“He understands what endurance is about and what his duties are,” added Vasselon.
Alonso explained how close he came to doing Le Mans in the past, “First chance for me to drive at Le Mans came in 2013 when I was at Ferrari. I was very close on a couple of occasions but Ferrari were not very happy sharing with other brands.”
“When I arrived at McLaren I was very, very close, but for different reasons, it did not happen. In the end we are here now with the best team and I am very happy,” added Alonso.