Fernando Alonso celebrated a victorious debut in the 86th edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours race as Toyota triumphed.
The two-time Formula One world champion is pursuing motor racing’s Triple Crown – winning the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans and Indianapolis 500 – and ticked off the second of the three prizes in France.
The 36-year old Spaniard and team-mates Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi secured a two-lap victory. They started from pole position on Saturday afternoon after Japanese former Williams driver Nakajima posted the fastest time in qualifying for their number eight car.
Toyota, who competed with a hybrid car in the top LMP1 class, proved too strong for their rivals running non-hybrids and completed a one-two when their number seven car – shared by Briton Mike Conway, Japanese Kamui Kobayashi and Argentinian Jose Maria Lopez – finished second.
McLaren F1 driver Alonso won the Monaco Grand Prix in 2006 and 2007 and requires just the Indy 500 to emulate Britain’s double F1 champion Graham Hill, who is the only driver to have completed the Triple Crown set.
Meanwhile, Jenson Button retired from the Le Mans race after coming to a halt with just 50 minutes to go for the Russian-backed SMP team.
Button was also in his debut Le Mans race and lined up from seventh on the grid.
The 2009 F1 champion, who raced alongside Alonso at McLaren, struggled with an engine problem and spent two hours in the pits racing in the non-hybrid LMP1 class.