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Fernando Alonso Takes Another Shot at a Motorsport Triple Crown

In the early days of postwar auto racing, it was not unusual for the best drivers to make guest appearances in other series, winning Formula One grands prix and entering small events and regional championships.

As Formula One became more professional, with increased investment from sponsors and governments, teams began to insist that their drivers concentrate on the sport that was paying their salaries.

But that has been changing. Drivers have begun trying to claim either of racing’s triple crowns, and to do that they have to race for other masters.

The Indianapolis 500, the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race compose a triple crown of motorsport, the three most prestigious events on the world auto-racing calendar. An alternate version of the crown is winning Indy, Le Mans and a Formula One world championship.

“I don’t want to win only Le Mans, I want to be World Endurance champion.”

After Porsche’s withdrawal from the W.E.C. in 2017 and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest’s decision to create a 2018-19 “super season” of eight races across the two years, including two 24 Hours of Le Mans races, managing travel schedules among the different championships became easier.

Alonso will be the only current Formula One driver at Le Mans this year, but in LMP1 he will be competing against seven men he has raced against in Formula One: the 2009 Formula One world champion, Jenson Button; Buemi, the 2014 W.E.C. and 2015-16 Formula E champion; the three-time Le Mans winner André Lotterer; and the W.E.C. teammates Kamui Kobayashi and Kazuki Nakajima and privateer entrants Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna.

Drivers rarely move from the W.E.C. to Formula One. Lotterer made an appearance for the Caterham team at the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix, but that was for just one race.

This year, Brendon Hartley has been driving for Scuderia Toro Rosso in Formula One. He raced in the European Le Mans Series in 2012 and 2013 and then moved to Porsche and the W.E.C. in 2014, where he was part of two championships. In 2017, he was part of the Le Mans-winning Porsche LMP1 team.

Having recently made the move back into Formula One from W.E.C., Hartley spent the end of 2017 racing in both categories. Asked what it was like moving between the two series, he called the experience “surprisingly tricky.”

“I thought I was going to feel right at home — it’s been my home for the last four years — but it took a couple of laps for it to feel comfortable again,” he said, referring to Le Mans. “The seating position’s quite different from Formula One, having a roof over your head, different perspective, but after five laps I felt back at home.

“What I do know is, from working with Porsche the last years, it made my transition quite smooth to Formula One because it’s a similar amount of people involved; very similar structure in terms of engineering; pressure,” he said. “Driving at Le Mans for Porsche, there’s a big amount of pressure on your shoulders, so I guess all of those things I’ve learned to deal with, so that was obviously very helpful.”

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