While targeting a run at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a bid for the “Triple Crown” of motorsport, Fernando Alonso could first be making his debut in another twice-around-the-clock endurance classic this January.
Multiple sources have revealed to Sportscar365 that the two-time Formula One World Champion is closing in on a drive with United Autosports for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, in what would see Alonso line up in one of the team’s Ligier JS P217 Gibsons for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opener.
While it’s understood a deal has yet to be reached, one source indicated that it’s currently “80 percent likely” the Spaniard would be part of the two-car effort.
Alonso would join Williams F1 driver Paul di Resta and rising open-wheel star Lando Norris, who along with Will Owen and Phil Hanson, have so far been confirmed with the Anglo-Swiss squad for the race.
When asked about the prospects of Alonso joining the team for Daytona, United Autosports co-owner and McLaren Executive Director Zak Brown didn’t rule out the possibility, although said his focus is currently on securing Alonso’s return to McLaren for next year.
“We’ve been focused on getting our F1 stuff going, which is coming together,” Brown told Sportscar365. “Then we’ll have a conversation about any extra-circular activity.
“He wants to do Le Mans. Indy’s not possible next year. We’ll focus on getting the F1 done and we’ll see if there’s any other additional events that he has a desire to do and we have a desire to do.”
Should a deal for Daytona materialize, it would mark Alonso’s long-awaited sports car racing debut, following numerous statements and hints in recent years on his desire to try his hand in prototype racing.
Brown said they’re “halfway there” on securing the full driver lineup for the race, which leaves an opportunity open should Alonso wish to commit.
“Would anyone love to have Fernando Alonso driving for them? Of course,” Brown said. “The seats aren’t filled yet. Once they get filled there wouldn’t be a seat for him.
“But as of today there would be [a seat available] if it’s something he wanted to do.”
Button Ruled Out for Daytona
The prospects of seeing former McLaren teammates Alonso and Jenson Button together at United Autosports for Daytona, meanwhile, have been ruled out according to Brown, who said Button is no longer an option for the race.
Brown told Sportscar365 in August that he was in discussions with the 2009 F1 World Champion about a possible one-off drive in the Rolex 24, prior to him being linked to the Penske Acura DPi program, which didn’t materialize.
“Jenson won’t be driving for us,” Brown said. “I don’t know what he’s going to be doing. I thought he was going to be in the Penske car. Not sure what happened there.”