Toyota insists there's no pro-Alonso bias at Le Mans

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Toyota Gazoo Racing
© XPB 

Toyota has issued a statement denying suggestions that they will prioritise victory at Le Mans for Fernando Alonso.

The McLaren driver is taking part in the iconic 24 hour endurance race for the first time this weekend. He's driving the #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing LMP1 with team mates Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi, both former F1 drivers.

Toyota also has a second car in this year's race. The #7 is being driven by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López.

So far, the #8 has the upper hand. Nakajima claimed provisional pole by a tenth of a second over the #7 in yesterday's first of three qualifying sessions.

However Toyota has been accused of giving preferential treatment to the #8 car because of the publicity surrounding Alonso's involvement.

"Our cars will race for victory with the target of achieving a Toyota one-two," a spokesperson told BBC Sport.

"Both cars start the race with an equal and fair chance of winning."

Experts say that this year's race is Toyota's to lose. They are the only remaining works hybrid entries in the prototype category, and were over two seconds a lap faster than the privateer field on Wednesday.

Assuming that both Toyotas make it the full duration at the weekend, only the #7 car could realistically threaten a victory for Alonso.

There are fears that the second car could be moved aside to facilitate what would undoubtedly be a historic victory.

Alonso's car was victorious in the first race of the World Endurance Championship in Belgium last month when Toyota imposed team orders requiring the #7 to follow on behind.

A former Monaco Grand Prix winner, Alonso is chasing the Triple Crown of Motorsport victories in Monaco, Le Mans and Indianapolis. Only Graham Hill has succeeded in winning all three.

Alonso took part in last year's Indianapolis 500 but retired before the finish with engine issues, having led for part of the race.

Jenson Button is also taking part in this year's Le Mans, but his SMP Racing car was only seventh fastest in first qualifying.

Renault's Nico Hulkenberg is a previous winner of the event, having taken victory with Porsche in 2015. Last year, Brendon Hartley's victory at the race - also with Porsche - paved the way for him to join the Toro Rosso F1 team.

Porsche withdrew from the WEC at the end of the 2017, leaving the LMP1 category to Toyota.

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