Fernando Alonso produced an epic night-time stint in his first Le Mans 24 Hours to slash the gap between his #8 Toyota and the leading #7 car.
Alonso’s car was delayed just before midnight when teammate Sebastien Buemi received a 60s stop/go penalty for speeding in a slow zone.
It meant Alonso inherited a 2m10s deficit to the sister car, driven by Jose Maria Lopez, but he slashed this down to 44s by the time he handed the #8 car over to pole position setter Kazuki Nakajima.
“We had to push, obviously,” said Alonso. “We lost time with the penalty, the stop/go, so we had an unlucky situation with the safety car and things like that, so it was time to recover.
“I felt good at night, into the zone, and I tried to push and recover – and I think it was one minute and a half. Part of the job is done, it’s still a long race ahead of us and we still need to recover a couple more seconds there."
When asked how he found his first-ever night race stint at Le Mans, he replied: “It was OK, sometimes you get frustrated with traffic, sometimes you get lucky. Also my laps, when I got lucky, it’s a nice feeling!”