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McLaren “Open-Minded” About Alonso’s Daytona Plans, Le Mans Interest

McLaren is “open-minded” to allowing Fernando Alonso to race for other teams in sports car events such as the Rolex 24 and 24 Hours of Le Mans…

Photo: LAT/McLaren

McLaren is “open-minded” about allowing Fernando Alonso to race for other teams in sports car events such as the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans before it can field the two-time Formula 1 world champion in one of its own cars.

United Autosports confirmed Alonso last month as part of its lineup for the Rolex 24 in January, marking his sports car racing debut ahead of a possible shot at Le Mans later that year to further his bid for the ‘triple crown’ of motorsport.

Alonso, meanwhile, is rumored to be in line for a role with Toyota’s LMP1 program in 2018 that would see him make his Le Mans debut, with a first run-out in the Toyota TS050 Hybrid being mooted in Sunday’s FIA World Endurance Championship Rookie Test in Bahrain.

While F1 remains Alonso’s priority, he is being encouraged to further his pursuits in other forms of racing by McLaren Executive Director Zak Brown, who sees the Spaniard as establishing himself as one of racing’s great all-rounders.

“I’m really excited; he is the ultimate racer. I think we’ve created a monster, because he’s been wanting to do [sports cars] for a while and everyone has said no,” Brown told Sportscar365.

“Take Mario Andretti, to me the greatest drivers in the world excel in multi-discipline forms of motorsport. We love that we’re doing it with him.”

Having won the Monaco Grand Prix in 2007 for McLaren, Alonso took a second step towards the triple crown with his first entry to the Indianapolis 500 back in May with the team.

Alonso recently signed a new long-term contract with McLaren, and has made no secret of his desire to enter Le Mans at some stage in the near future.

Brown said that while he would love to see Alonso fight for victory in all three legs of the triple crown for McLaren, he is happy to let the 36-year-old race for other teams in the meantime while the British marque continues to mull over a possible return to Le Mans.

“We’re not ready for Le Mans. It’s something that we’re looking at,” Brown said. “In an ideal world we’d love for him to win the triple crown in a McLaren.

“He’s won Monaco. I think we’ll go back to do the Indy 500 one of these days, and Le Mans is something that we’re looking at.

“But in the meantime if he wants to get some experience at Daytona, Le Mans, we’re very open-minded to those.

“I like that he races. This is a racing culture, so everyone enjoys it.”

McLaren famously won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1995, with its F1 GTR car last appearing at the Circuit de la Sarthe in the 1998 edition of the race when it was fielded by the Gulf Team Davidoff customer team.

A return to Le Mans has been under evaluation at McLaren, with it having been “very active” in discussions with the FIA and ACO for the new set of LMP1 regulations, according to Brown.

Luke Smith is a British motorsport journalist who has served as NBC Sports’ lead Formula 1 writer since 2013, as well as working on its online sports car coverage.

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