Fernando Alonso heaped praise upon Toyota after playing a part in its domination of qualifying for the FIA World Endurance Championship season-opener at Spa-Francorchamps on Friday, claiming his first front row start in over five years.

Alonso will make his WEC debut on Saturday with Toyota as he balances a full campaign in the sports car championship with his McLaren Formula 1 duties throughout 2018.

Alonso teamed up with Kazuki Nakajima in qualifying to put the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid second for the start of Saturday's six-hour race, with their average lap time coming in at three-tenths of a second slower than the sister #7 Toyota, shared by Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi, which took pole position.

The result marks Alonso's first front-row start in a professional race since he took pole position for Ferrari at the 2012 German Grand Prix, with the Spaniard expressing his delight after the session.

"In qualifying, to get the lap together with no mistakes, no problems, obviously with the red flags and things like that, it’s always difficult to get the full focus on it," Alonso said.

"We will start on the first row of the grid. It's a long time since I had that! It’s a superb performance.

"The team is just amazing. One-two is a perfect start. We want to convert this in tomorrow’s race."

Saturday's race will mark Alonso's second outing in sports cars following his debut in the Rolex 24 at Daytona back in January, aiding his preparation that has also seen him take part in three private tests for Toyota this year.

"I feel prepared," Alonso said. "The practices were OK, the car balance is good in race situations. Obviously it’s a first experience. I did Daytona in a way which helps tomorrow to be ready for the driver changes and to do the driver changes properly. A little bit of traffic as well.

"I think we should be ready and OK. The weather forecast is nice for tomorrow. Always when it’s stable conditions, it helps to minimise the stress. If it’s raining tomorrow then you get a bit nervous.

"I think it’s a good start."

The WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps gets underway at 12:30pm BST on Saturday.

 

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