After McLaren announced that they would allow Fernando Alonso to race in the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans if he resigned with their Formula One racing team, Toyota Gazoo Racing stated that they would be happy to open talks with the Spaniard about joining their campaign.
Toyota’s World Endurance Championship team director Rob Leupen said that Toyota was very open to talking to top drivers from other race series about joining them in their mission to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans and mentioned that their technical director Pascal Vasselon has worked with Alonso in the past.
Toyota have had victory at the prestigious event stolen from their grasp over the last two years as the reliability of their car has let them down in the last moment. It was clear in this year’s rendition of the event that Toyota was going all in to try and win Le Mans, potentially having sacrificed their chance to win or even fight for the 2017 Endurance Championship
“We are always interested in talking to top drivers and Pascal has a good relationship with Fernando going back to his days with Michelin in F1,” Leupen told Autosport. “But we cannot say anything more than that, because too much is open right now.”
Toyota’s future in the WEC has been thrown into uncertainty after losing Audi Sport from the LMP1-H class last year and now having Porsche leaving the series at the end of the year. Both works teams have left the WEC to focus on electrical racing, with both having future plans to enter Formula e. Porsche has also recently been rumoured to be looking at entering F1 in 2021.
Whether or not Toyota is even entered in the WEC next year will determine if there is an open window for Alonso to potentially join the team for the one-off 24-hour race. Toyota have said that no decisions about their future in the series will be announced until October at the earliest. The Japanese team are waiting for further details on the future direction of the sport and the LMP1-H class.
With an agreement having been made between the series to try and make sure the racing calendars do not clash, the 2018 Le Mans does fall on a weekend where there is no F1 racing. Alonso has made it clear that he strives to achieve the ‘triple crown’ after he joined the Indy500 series in May to try and win the prestigious Indianapolis 500. Only Graham Hill has ever managed to win all three events in the ‘triple crown’ and Alonso aspires to be the next driver to do so. It is unlikely that Alonso will skip next year’s Monaco Grand Prix to compete again at Indianapolis, but with Le Mans on a ‘non-F1’ weekend, there is definitely potential for him to race at the Circuit de la Sarthe.