Alonso to make Daytona 24 debutposted in F126 | 10 | 2017

    DOUBLE FORMULA 1 world champion, Fernando Alonso, has confirmed he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona with United Autosports. Bathgate’s Paul di Resta was named earlier this month as one of the team’s drivers for January’s event. (Related: Di Resta to make Daytona 24 debut)

    Alonso — racing for McLaren in this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix — will drive the team’s Ligier JS P217 alongside previously announced drivers Phil Hanson and Lando Norris.

    Alonso’s sportscar debut follows his first race at the Indianapolis 500 last year — which he led for 27 laps, and was in contention for the win until forced to retire 21 laps from the end — and signals a longterm intent ultimately to progress to a full assault on the Le Mans 24-Hours. (Related: Sato wins Indy500 as Alonso suffers)

    The multiple grand prix winner has made it clear his intention is to win the unofficial triple crown of motorsport by adding wins in the Indy500 and Le Mans to his twin Monaco Grand Prix victories. In doing so he would emulate the so-far-unique feat of Graham Hill in winning the 'big three'.

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    “What an exciting and interesting project,” Alonso said. “Learning about a completely new racing category, adapting to a different car and to another style of driving and everything that goes with it, is a new challenge for me. I can’t wait to test myself again as a driver.

    “The Daytona 24 Hours is the most iconic US endurance race and one of the world’s great races. Everyone knows it. It’s not part of the Triple Crown but, as I have always said, my aim is to be a complete driver and this experience will help me in the preparation for any other endurance race I might take part in.

    “Before I went to Indy, I had never driven on an oval, now I know what an oval is and how to deal with it. I am excited to go back and race in America.

    “After the great time I had during the month of May for the Indy500, I am looking forward to taking part in another legendary race that will bring back all those amazing sensations that US fans gave me.

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    “Also, this race happens at a convenient time, in January, when our F1 season is off and we are mainly working on our physical preparation. It will be good to get behind a wheel again.

    “Thanks to United Autosports for having offered me this opportunity and thanks to McLaren for supporting me in this new exciting adventure.”

    And United Autosports owner and chairman Zak Brown — the McLaren boss who also paved the way for Alonso’s Indy 500 outing — believes the Spaniard will, as he did at Indianapolis, be on the pace quickly.

    “I’m thrilled we have managed to put a deal together to get Fernando in the car at Daytona,” Brown stated. “Although he hasn’t driven an LMP2 car before, I’m confident he will pick it up quickly.

    “He’s one of the best drivers around so it will be great to have him as part of the team, not only for his speed, but for his experience and the invaluable knowledge he will pass onto Phil and Lando.”

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    Norris is currently a McLaren development driver and this year raced in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship, winning the championship with two races to spare.

    This championship win made him the youngest ever European F3 champion. Hanson, who is the reigning Asian Le Mans Series LMP3 Champion, already has experience of the Ligier JS P217, having raced in the European Le Mans Series and the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2017. At 17-years-old, Hanson became the youngest driver to finish in the top 10 at Le Mans.

    The Rolex 24 At Daytona is held at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida and acts as the series opener for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

    This year marks the 56th running of the 24-hour endurance event, where United Autosports will enter two Ligier JS P217s. Di Resta and Will Owen have already been announced as team-mates to Alonso, Norris and Hanson.

    Related: Hamilton wins USGP and closes in on F1 world title

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    Jim McGill

     

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