Fernando Alonso scored his first race victory in over five years on Saturday’s Six Hours of Spa, the season opener for the FIA World Endurance Championship “Super Season,” which covers both the 2018 and 2019 calendars.
Alonso, alongside co-drivers Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, started on the pole for Saturday’s race, and dominated the outing in the No. 8 Toyota TS050, though they did have to withstand a late challenge from the sister No. 7 Toyota.
Alonso, who piloted the No. 8 entry for two stints during the race, took over driving duties for good just before the final hour began, with a lead of over one minute on teammates Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and Jose Maria Lopez in the No. 7.
However, a Safety Car early in the final hour erased that gap, and allowed Conway, who finished the race in the No. 7, to close on Alonso.
Yet, Alonso was able to hold off Conway during the final hour, which included a final round of pit stops, and eventually built the gap back up to around three seconds before both drivers backed off to preserve the 1-2 finish.
Alonso was elated to score a long-awaited victory, his first since the Spanish Grand Prix in 2013.
“I was telling the guys before, (it was) a long time since I stood on the podium. I will be here all night long, until tomorrow morning!” Alonso quipped afterward in his victory interview.
However, Alonso was not the only outlier driver at the WEC “Super Season” opener. Verizon IndyCar Series stalwart Tony Kanaan was also a participant, joining Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell in the No. 67 Ford GT for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing UK.
However, their day ended early, with Tincknell crashing hard in Eau Rouge, the same corner in which Pietro Fittipaldi crashed and suffered leg fractures the previous day. Luckily, Tincknell emerged unhurt.
Meanwhile, the sister No. 66 Ford, in the hands of Stefan Mucke, Olivier Pla, and Billy Johnson, scored victory in the GTE-Pro class.
Other class winners were G-Drive Racing’s Roman Rusinov, Jean-Eric Vergne, and Andrea Pizzitola in LMP2 – in the No. 26 Oreca 07 Gibson – and Aston Marton Racing’s Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, and Mathias Lauda in GTE-Am – in the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage.