The 2018-19 World Endurance Championsio (WEC) season opener race had more eyes on it than usual this year. The extra eyes glued to the TV on Saturday afternoon were due to F1 driver Fernando Alonso driving his first WEC race.
Fernando Alonso’s Debut Brought A Unique Experience To The WEC
New And Longtime Fans React To Fernando Alonso
Alonso saw success with the Toyota Gazoo Racing LMP1 team, achieving first place, with their sister car getting second place. The popularity of the race made it a unique weekend, with the clashing of two racing styles and two fanbases. Online, people voiced their opinions about many aspects of the experience this weekend.
On online forum Reddit, fans expressed the opinion that they enjoyed a type of racing that they would not particularly indulge in. User pajausk said that he “Came for Alonso, stayed for the nice overtakings”. He also mentioned how he was impressed by the down to the wire competition.
On a more negative note, some people reacted sourly to the dominance that Toyota had on race day. A testament to how dominant Toyota can be is how their penalized car performed. The #7 car started the race in the pits due to a penalty after qualifying, but was still able to work through the pack and achieve second place.
Fans Tout Alonso’s Versatility
I had the chance to talk to some endurance fans online, polling what they thought about the race. “He was able to adjust to a car which is far heavier than he is normal to”, said Bobaloochi, a WEC fan.
When user Reddits_Worst_Night was asked about how much influence Fernando Alonso’s following will have on the sport, he said: “I think that we’ll see some drop-off, but some will catch the endurance bug and never leave.” He also noted that in his opinion the Le Mans race will still get the same amount of attention as usual.
Alonso is still very fresh to prototype racing, with his first glimpse of it at the historic Rolex 24 race. Since then, the only proper prototype race that Alonso engaged in was at the WEC kickoff, at Spa-Francorchamps.
Now that the first race of a two year season extravaganza has finished (‘Super season’), there are many things we have to wait and watch for. It will be interesting to see how much of Alonso’s popularity has an effect on the sport. More importantly it will be special to see the blossoming of Alonso’s career in endurance racing.
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