Bad news for the Fernando Alonso Hype Train: the car he’s sharing with Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima just served a 60-second time penalty, which means that the formerly-leading car came out in second place, two minutes behind the Toyota being driven by Mike Conway.
Buemi was behind the wheel at the time of the penalty, which he earned for speeding in a slow zone. It seems like a rookie error, but I’ve gotta imagine that speed becomes a nearly-meaningless concept once the sun goes down. After all, it’s tougher trying to judge how fast you’re going down the highway at night than it is during the day.
But whatever the explanation, the No. 8 Toyota still had to spend a painful sixty seconds sitting absolutely still on pit lane before they were allowed to take off again. By the time Buemi got back on track, he was over two minutes behind Conway. That’s a gap that only increased after the two came in for pit stops several laps later. Which has to be frustrating not only for Buemi, but also for Alonso and Nakajima who are stuck watching this all from outside the car.
Listen. There are already people asking how Fernando Alonso can possibly win this race with such a gap. Some tongue-in-cheek folks are wondering how Toyota is going to rig the race in his favor. Fans are going crazy. Whatever the result, plenty of news outlets are going to speculate on the how and why.
Theories are abound, but the fact of the matter is, this is Le Mans. Anything can happen here, and it can happen legitimately. The lead change between the Toyotas has changed the complexion of this race, but there are still fourteen hours left to go and anything is possible. It’s refreshing, at least, to see different cars heading the field.
(That said, I still welcome your theories.)