Fernando Alonso feels that driving at night and dealing with traffic will be his two greatest challenges on his debut appearance in the Rolex 24 at Daytona with United Autosports.
Two-time Formula 1 world champion will enter his first sports car race at Daytona International Speedway later this month, with his first laps of the circuit coming on Friday at the start of the Roar Before the 24 test.
Alonso has been strongly linked with an entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans later this year with Toyota, and said he will use his debut event at Daytona to gauge his enjoyment of sports car racing.
“This race is some kind of first step in endurance, how these races are and how much I enjoy these races. Hopefully it’s a positive answer, because I never did it,” Alonso said.
“After the 24 hours at Daytona, I will have a better understanding of these championships. Le Mans 24 hour and the ‘triple crown’ is another target.
“So if I can fit the Le Mans 24 hour this year as I’m not doing the Indy 500, that would be great, and hopefully the following year the Indy 500 can be in the plan again.”
As well as being his first sports car event, the Rolex 24 will also mark Alonso’s first multi-class race and his first proper night race without artificial lighting up the entirety of the circuit, as seen at the F1 grands prix in Singapore and Bahrain.
“It’s still a question mark,” Alonso said when asked about night driving.
“I don’t have big concerns because I think the track is quite well illuminated here. You have quite a lot of light. It is not that you will rely only on the car.
“I think the traffic and the GTs at night, and how to understand each other, I will try to overtake on the right side, and hopefully they understand that – these kind of things will be the main challenge for me.
“But I know that it will be nearly 12 hours of night driving, so we will try to figure it out.”
Despite only completing three laps behind the wheel of the No. 23 Ligier JS P217 Gibson in opening practice, Alonso said he was able to get a feel for the Daytona circuit.
“I did unfortunately a short time, only three laps this morning, but enough to have a feeling in the car and on the speedway as well,” Alonso said.
“Obviously the moments with the high banking were special. You feel the compression there in the body, you feel the visibility change.
“When you are in the normal part of the circuit, you have a view from the car that is a little bit longer ahead, while when you are in the corning on the banking, you see the next 200 metres of the track, only that. I was trying to look where was the track going.
“It was good fun, the best feeling. Unfortunately I was missing a little bit more track time. I’ll try to recover it now in the second session, but so far so good.”