Driver, supporter and guest starter: Fernando Alonso was all of these on Saturday at the Le Mans 24 Hour race. In fact, the Spanish Scuderia Ferrari driver flagged the race off with the traditional French tricolor at 3pm.
Fernando arrived at the circuit around noon. At the track, he met the President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, Pierre Fillon and the President of the FIA, Jean Todt, after he which he endorsed the Federation’s road safety campaign.
Then, wearing a race suit and helmet, Fernando tried the cockpit of a Ferrari 512 S, which was entered in the 1970 24 Hours by Scuderia Filipinetti for the German Herbert Muller and the Englishman Mike Parkes. The Spaniard then did one lap of the track in this, one of the last prototypes built by Ferrari for Endurance racing, when he was given an enthusiastic welcome from the 250,000 spectators who lined the 13.6 kilometre-long track. Fernando said he was struck by the atmosphere of the event. “It’s nice to be here and you can feel a special mood linked to this really fascinating form of racing,” said Fernando. “It would be nice to actually take part on track one day. I often speak with President Montezemolo and, while the priority remains winning again in Formula 1, an interesting format like Le Mans is worth keeping an eye on too.”
Back in the pits, Fernando went to wish his friends and colleagues in the AF Corse team the best of luck, meeting up with the two crews that took pole in the LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am categories – Gimmi Bruni, Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander the former, in car 51 and Sam Bird, Stephen Wyatt and Michele Rugolo the latter, in car 81. Alonso spent a long time walking down the grid with the head of Ferrari’s Racing Activity, Antonello Coletta, the two of them meeting his friend and former Formula 1 rival Mark Webber. After waving the cars off, Fernando stayed to watch the opening laps before paying a visit to Race Control, from where all 55 starters can be monitored throughout the race.