Alonso, Buemi and Nakajima score Toyota's first win

The two Toyotas took the lead at the start of the 24 Hours of Le MansMore

The Toyotas finished first and second in the top category, Le Mans Prototype 1, where the competition was eight non-hybrid prototypes run by private teams.

Alonso, a double Formula 1 world champion, was the star turn as he became the sixth driver to complete the Monaco-Le Mans double after Tazio Nuvolari, Maurice Trintignant, Bruce McLaren, Jochen Rindt and Graham Hill.

"It has been unbelievable", said Alonso, referring not just of the victory but also about the entire Le Mans experience.

The Spaniard, racing alongside ex-F1 drivers Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, made the most of the fact his Toyota team were the only ones left in the LMP1 hybrid class, which has a significant performance advantage over the rest of the LMP1 contenders. Kobayashi qualified his vehicle in second place, exactly two minutes behind Nakajima, but it should be noted that Kobayashi still holds the all-time qualifying lap record from his 2017 run.

In the 16th hour of the race, Nakajima retook the lead and the number eight vehicle was in control for the duration.

The result was effectively settled when Kobayashi had to serve two penalties for exceeding the fuel allowance, and for driving too many laps in a stint.

The number 7 auto was always out of reach.

Alonso's vehicle was left more than two minutes behind the other Toyota but the Spaniard managed to claw back the difference through the night, putting Nakajima in position to retake the lead from Kobayashi early on Sunday.

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And Kobayashi missed a pit stop in the penultimate hour and had to complete much of a lap on electrical power alone because he did not have enough fuel.

Fernando Alonso has always been regarded as one of the all-time great racing drivers and the best along with Lewis Hamilton in the current era of F1, but he has found success hard to come by in grands prix in recent years.

There was no joy for another former F1 champion, though.

Toyota joins Mazda as the only Japanese manufacturers to win the event, when they did so back in 1991.

It just shows the effects of downforce and diffuser pressure as cars attain blistering speeds across the track.

Alonso's hopes had appeared to dim as the race entered the early hours, with his auto two minutes adrift of the sister Toyota after a stop-go penalty.

If it was a genuine fight, at least for the first two-thirds of the race, Alonso's apparently impressive multiple stints in the middle of the night, when he closed a two-minute lead to virtually nothing, will come to be seen as playing a decisive role in the victory for the number eight auto.

Alonso now just needs to win the Indy 500.

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