IMSA President Scott Atherton says it’s “not possible to overstate” the significance of Thursday’s news confirming that Fernando Alonso will take part in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, adding further star power to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opener.
The two-time Formula 1 World Champion will pilot one of United Autosports’ Ligier JS P217 Gibson LMP2 entries in the race, joining McLaren junior Lando Norris and reigning Asian Le Mans Series LMP3 champion Phil Hanson in the Prototype class contender.
“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Fernando Alonso to IMSA competition in the Rolex 24 At Daytona,” Atherton said. “It’s not possible to overstate the significance of this news.
“There is no question that with his Formula 1 experience and how competitive he was at the Indianapolis 500, he will be an immediate contender for the Rolex 24 victory.
“We are especially grateful to Zak Brown and the United Autosports team for creating this fantastic opportunity for our sport’s biggest race.
“The Rolex 24 has had its share of racing legends compete, and win, over the years, and it will be fascinating for fans here and around the world to watch Fernando and the team pursue this highly coveted prize in January.”
Alonso’s participation in the race comes just one year after NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon claimed victory in the race alongside Max Angelelli and Ricky and Jordan Taylor, who went on to claim the Prototype championship.
The news also comes on the heels of recent announcements from Team Penske, which will give the new Acura ARX-05 DPi its debut in the race with a lineup including Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves, plus Mazda’s reinforced effort with legendary German outfit Joest Racing.
Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile, meanwhile, believes the addition of Alonso to the grid will add to its continued international flare.
“You look at what he did in the Indy 500 and the international attention he got for running IndyCar’s biggest race,” Wile said. “I think we should at least expect that when he comes to Daytona International Speedway in January.
“He’s racing against the best in the world at sports car’s biggest event in the United States and we’re thrilled for him to pilot a car at the World’s Center of Racing.”