Fernando Alonso says it was difficult to match the race-leading Toyota for outright pace through the opening stages of the 24 Hours of Le Mans on Saturday after trailing for the opening six hours of the race.

Alonso and co-driver Sebastien Buemi spent the entirety of their stints in the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid running second behind the #7 Toyota, which pulled clear through Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi early on.

Conway was able to open up a 40-second gap through his stint before Kobayashi opened the gap to over a minute up against Alonso, aided by a Safety Car period.

Toyota made a number of nose changes to try and help the #8 drivers find a happier balance, with both Alonso and Buemi offering a frank assessment of their struggles.

"My stint went okay. We are still in the race, we are not out of contention," Alonso said.

"Last year we were two-and-a-half minutes behind and we won the race. It’s difficult to match the other car on pure pace but we will push. The race is long.”

Buemi added: "It was a difficult first stint for me and I lost a little bit of time to Mike, who did a good job.

"We are now trying to make up some of the time we lost and the car is behaving pretty well. There is a long way to go and we keep focused. Let’s wait and see.”

Since handing the car over to Kazuki Nakajima, the #8 Toyota has moved into the lead of the race after the #7's advantage was wiped away by a Safety Car period.

Two mistakes from Jose Maria Lopez in the #7 allowed Nakajima to pass on-track. The Japanese driver currently holds a two-second lead nearing the end of the eighth hour.

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