Fernando Alonso says Toyota took a “safe approach” en route to victory in Saturday’s FIA World Endurance Championship season-opener at Spa, resulting in a tense finish after late pressure from teammate Mike Conway.

Alonso is combining a WEC programme with his Formula 1 duties through 2018, and scored his first win in a professional race for almost five years as he teamed up with Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima in the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid at Spa.

The Spaniard came under pressure from Conway in the #7 Toyota through the final hour of the race, having seen a lead of more than one minute be erased by a Safety Car period.

Despite nursing a gearbox issue and struggling with overheating his rear tyres, Alonso was able to hold on and take the car to the finish with a 1.4 seconds buffer over Conway, spearheading a one-two finish for Toyota.

Alonso revealed after the race that Toyota had played it safe with the #8 car for much of the race, given the #7 started from the pit lane and was one lap down early on.

“I knew that it was tricky performance-wise. We took quite a safe approach in the race knowing we had a good advantage, but then with the Safety Car, probably that advantage went,” Alonso said.

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“Our safe approach was not the quickest probably, and we had to fight until the end. But the team is amazing. A six-hour race, it seems easy, but I think the other LMP1s, they were quick at the beginning of the race, and we stopped even before them in the first stop. There was a risk there.

“Anything can happen in six hours, a lot of traffic, a lot of risky moments. So I think we executed the race to perfection and we have the one-two, so it’s good for the team.

“It was a long winter, a lot of testing, a lot of simulator, a lot of analysis. The team has put a lot of work into this car and into this team for this season.

“You come to Spa and everyone thinks that it’s easy to do a one-two, but then you need to deliver the result on Saturday.”

Asked for his first impressions on the WEC, Alonso said: “I think it’s definitely challenging. It’s challenging for the preparation, for the focus, for the concentration.

“All the race long you need to stay always at the top of your game. Definitely I think the traffic management and the race itself, how it develops and how quickly it changes with the Safety Cars and things like that, you need to be ready for anything.

“It’s a good test, and I’m ready for Le Mans.”

 

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