Fernando Alonso believes his outing in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona was a “necessity” to prepare himself for his FIA World Endurance Championship and 24 Hours of Le Mans debut.
The two-time Formula One world champion kicks off his LMP1 campaign with Toyota Gazoo Racing in this weekend’s Total Six Hours of Spa, as part of a planned full-season effort in the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid alongside Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima.
Alonso’s 26-race schedule in 2018, however, began at Daytona with his sports car racing debut in one of United Autosports’ Ligier JS P217 Gibsons.
While finishing an unrepresentative 38th overall in the Anglo-American squad’s LMP2 car, following an incident-filled race, the Spaniard said the experience in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opener helped shape his expectations ahead of his long-awaited Le Mans debut.
“It was a huge help,” Alonso said when asked by Sportscar365 during a roundtable interview at Spa on Wednesday.
“Not in terms of driving style because in the LMP2, there were not similar to these kind of driving with hybrid systems, but the way the 24 hour [races] are [approached].
“The way you approach the 24 hours, the way you sleep, the way you concentrate in the race, the energy you spend watching the times of your teammates.
“Sometimes it’s useless to watch that because you lose energy that you may need in Hour 16 or 17.
“It was a necessity to do that race and it was good for driver changes, traffic and all those things.
“One thing is practice, we did a lot of practice for driver changes and pit stops. But even in Daytona when you do the first proper pit stop in race conditions, everything is different.
“The tension is different, the stress is different, not only for the drivers but the mechanics. You need to be a team player and help everyone and not only think about yourself.
“It was very important and that was the purpose of doing Daytona and I think it will be a huge help for Le Mans.”
Alonso, who was formally confirmed with the Japanese manufacturer less than 48 hours after his Daytona debut, said that he feels ready to fight for the World Championship.
Despite juggling a busy a busy start to the year with F1 commitments, Alonso completed three 30-hour simulation tests in the Toyota’s LMP1 hybrid contender, in what he described as a “great team” environment.
“From day one, I found a great group of guys that are very productive working with all of them,” he said. “The team is great; it’s something that’s difficult to find in F1.
“Every time I jump in the car I feel better. The first couple of tests, even with the seat, it was more for comfort than performance.
“It’s been a great journey. Now it’s time to race, so it’s even more exciting.”
Full Season WEC Target
Alonso has targeted completing the full 2018-19 WEC season, despite uncertainties over potential clashes with the F1 calendar next year.
While Le Mans 2019 is unlikely to conflict, both the 1000 Miles of Sebring on March 15 and the penultimate round of the season at Spa, scheduled for May 4, 2019 could end up falling on F1 weekends.
“It’s a possibility, who knows?” Alonso said.
“I think Le Mans will not clash because the latest philosophy of the FIA and calendars is not to clash these two races. I think that’s more or less safe.
“I think Sebring is soon enough that Formula 1 will not have started in that period of the year. I think that should also be quite safe.
“In Spa next year, we’ll see. Obviously it’s Baku and Barcelona and these kind of races [fall during that period]. Hopefully not.”
It’s understood that a provisional version of the 2019 F1 schedule could be released by as early as the next FIA World Motor Sport Council Meeting in June.