Fernando Alonso is relishing the opportunity to make his sports car racing debut in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January with United Autosports as the two-time Formula 1 world champion gets out of his comfort zone.
The Anglo-American team announced on Thursday that McLaren F1 racer Alonso would be joining its lineup for the 24-hour race on Jan 27-28, linking up with Lando Norris and Philip Hanson in one of the team’s Ligier JS P217 Gibson LMP2 cars.
Alonso’s sports car debut acts as a first step towards a possible shot at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the future, which is central to his bid to become just the second driver in history to win the ‘Triple Crown’ of motorsport, kick-started with his appearance in the Indianapolis 500 in May this year.
“I know it could be useful for the future, my first time in a prototype car, and some nice experience I’m sure in traffic, night racing,” Alonso said.
“Right now my full concentration and full motivation is to do well in Daytona. As I did in Indianapolis, even if I don’t have experience, when I close the visor, I will go for a win and that’s what matters now.”
Having spent his entire racing career in single-seaters, Alonso is aware of the steep learning curve he faces when stepping into a sports car, but looks forward to getting to grips with a new racing challenge.
“The biggest thing is to adapt to this driving style,” he said. “I’m sure it will be different, different ways of driving, different times of the day, with day and night, and traffic. It’ll be different tires and characteristics. That’ll be the biggest challenge.
“To give the car to teammates is part of the fun; the teamwork you have to learn. It’s getting out of my comfort zone and trying something new for the first time.
“I think it’s great for me as a driver and the excitement and the challenge.”
When asked by Sportscar365 about his preparation plans, Alonso said: “I think it’s still ongoing, some of the preparations we will do. I think I will have a chance this weekend with Zak [Brown] and United Autosport members.
“The plan is to maybe have a seat fit and some preparation with the team before the end of the year somewhere in Europe.
“After that, we have the Roar test beginning of January, and that’ll be the real test opportunity with other cars on track and discover the circuit of Daytona.”
Alonso will become the eighth F1 world champion to race in the Rolex 24, and the first since Mario Andretti in 1991.
Of the seven prior to Alonso, only Andretti and Phil Hill have claimed overall victory at Daytona, with their successes coming in 1972 and 1964 respectively.