Finally, finally we can put an end to one of the longest-running and perhaps most predictable stories from the last few months in motorsport.

Fernando Alonso will race for Toyota at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year - that is official.

Don't get me wrong: it's awesome. Alonso has been able to channel the old-style racer habit of racing anything and everything at the highest level possible over the past 12 months, harking back to an era where the likes of Mario Andretti would criss-cross the Atlantic on a weekend to race in two series.

But we all knew how this was going to end. Alonso was always going to be racing for Toyota this year. It was just a matter of getting it confirmed. Now it has, we can get on with the best part: the racing.

There are no losers from this deal (with the exception of the dropped Anthony Davidson) announced initially by McLaren on Tuesday morning. Alonso gets his chance to complete another leg of the 'triple crown'. Toyota gets one of the fastest racers in the world, not to mention the biggest name to grace Le Mans in a long time. McLaren gets a happy, albeit a little more tired, driver.

And perhaps the biggest winner in all of this is the FIA World Endurance Championship itself. When news of Porsche's decision to close its LMP1 programme broke last July, the future of the series' top class, LMP1, looked in serious doubt. Not only will numbers be booming this year thanks to a flurry of privateer entries, but the eyes of the world will be glued to the series to see just how Alonso gets on, with three WEC race entries also planned alongside his F1 and Le Mans commitments at Spa, Silverstone and Shanghai.

Alonso's odds of victory at Le Mans are pretty good, even for a race that is as unforgiving as the twice-around-the-clock classic. Toyota will have a pace advantage over the rest of the LMP1 field by virtue of being the only manufacturer, meaning that so long as it dodges any reliability bullets - as it failed to with all three cars in 2017 - then one of its two cars should win. It will then boil down to a straight fight between the Toyota TS050 Hybrids.

But Alonso isn't racing at Le Mans because it's an easier chance to complete another leg of the 'Triple Crown'. He's been clamouring to enter for five years now - but the timing has never been quite right.

Alonso first pushed to race at Le Mans back in 2014, while he was still with Ferrari. Despite not having an LMP1 team that would have allowed him to fight for top honours, Alonso was angling to secure a drive with the Ferrari-backed AF Corse team in the GTE-Pro class behind the wheel of a Ferrari 458 Italia. But the Ferrari F1 bosses said no. They wanted Alonso to focus on his F1 duties, even if there was little chance of victory given Mercedes' dominance.

As things would turn out, it was only an added hit in the increasingly sour relationship between the two parties that would result in them cutting ties at the end of the year. Curiously, Alonso made the trip to Le Mans regardless, acting as the official starter for the race, waving the field away, and vowed the very next week that he would be on-track to take the start before his motorsport career was over.

2015 came around, and a bigger window of opportunity was opened for Alonso to race at Le Mans as both Porsche and Audi expanded to three-car entries in LMP1. While Audi quickly filled its car with factory ringers, Alonso was courted by Porsche along with then-Force India F1 driver Nico Hulkenberg.

Porsche LMP1 team principal Andreas Seidl confirmed earlier this year that he "had talks" with Alonso for 2015, but it "didn't work out in the end" - once again, Alonso's F1 team had said no. This time around, McLaren, then under Ron Dennis, didn't want him getting distracted, particularly at a time when the team was working hard to try and recover from a rough start to life working with Honda. As a result, Alonso wasn't part of the #19 Porsche crew that would go on to win Le Mans, with Hulkenberg ultimately taking a famous overall victory alongside Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber.

2016 was a no-go for Alonso due to Le Mans' clash with the European Grand Prix, while 2017 was also a bridge too far, particularly having entered the Indianapolis 500 just a month prior to the race. Yet again though, on-track struggles with McLaren and Honda placed Alonso in the spotlight, paricularly with just a few months to run on his contract with the team.

It was not until the provisional F1 calendar for 2018 was released that talk of a Le Mans entry began to gather steam. As Alonso and McLaren continued to talk about a new contract, appeasement became a key area. One way to keep Alonso happy? Letting him race at Le Mans. And he was not exactly subtle in hinting at his hopes for the new season.

"The Triple Crown is a clear target for me in the future, and there are three races there. If the Indy 500 is together with Monaco as we know, there is another one still to complete..." Alonso said over the Singapore Grand Prix weekend.

The very next day, I put it to McLaren team boss Zak Brown whether a deal for Alonso to race at Le Mans would be possible given the lack of date clash. "We've spoken about it. If it's something he would like to do, in the right circumstances, we could be open to that," Brown said.

A few weeks later, the deal was done for Alonso to stay at McLaren. Brown would quip later that it took "approximately eight and a half minutes" before the two agreed for Alonso to make his sports car debut in the Rolex 24 at Daytona with United Autosports (Brown's team), which took place last weekend.

And those eight and a half minutes were probably filled by talking about a Le Mans entry and the preparation required.

The complication in the short-term was McLaren's former engine supplier, Honda. Understandably uneasy about the possibility of Alonso joining forces with a rival Japanese manufacturer, there could be no great fanfaring of Alonso's interest in Le Mans. Even when a deal was agreed to test Toyota's LMP1 car in Bahrain last November, everything had to be kept as under wraps as possible.

But with Honda being shuffled out, things could soon start to be put in motion. Alonso's Toyota test went well by all accounts, and while the Spaniard was coy when grilled on a wider WEC campaign given the schedule possibilities, he mumbled that he would "love" to do it. And he got his way.

Alonso faces a busy, busy year. Not only is there a record-equalling 21-race F1 calendar to contend with, but he will bolt on an additional four races - Le Mans and WEC events at Spa, Silverstone and Shanghai - taking him to 25 competitive weekends (26 with Daytona last weekend). Put in an extra four weekends' worth of testing (two F1 pre-season tests, the Daytona 'Roar' test, plus the Le Mans test) and he's up to 30 weekend's worth of action for the season.

At a time when some in the F1 paddock are getting uneasy about possibly having more than 21 F1 races a year, Alonso is making it look like child's play.

It's exactly how Alonso likes it, though. Even when he is not racing on weekends, he is doing something behind a wheel, often pushing a go-kart at full throttle around a circuit. "Instead of being on the bicycle or in the gym, you are driving, so it's nice," Alonso said last weekend at Daytona, adding that he would like to return to the race as a means of preparation for new F1 seasons.

An old-school racer who lives to be out on-track, Alonso will relish the season to come. He will get a chance to play a part in the crazy LMP1 era before it possibly fizzles out, and, perhaps more significantly, have a chance to start becoming a serial winner again this year in the WEC.

The sweetest win of all would come at Le Mans, though. Even if there is only one other car that can beat Alonso on pace alone, to survive the 24 hours is a significant achievement.

If Alonso can do that, he would add yet another layer of greatness to his growing legacy, and be two-thirds of the way there to the Triple Crown, leaving only the Indy 500 to capture.


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