Fernando Alonso will take the start at the next Rolex 24 at Daytona (January 26-27, 2018), participating in the legendary American race at the wheel of United Autosports' Ligier JS P217. The two-time F1 world champion has always been open about his interest in Endurance racing and to see him at Le Mans is now within the realm of possibility.
United Autosports - LMP2 runner-up and title-winner for the second consecutive time in the LMP3 class in the European Le Mans Series just a few days ago - has announced the participation of Fernando Alonso in the 2018 edition of one of the top races in the WeatherTech Sportscar Championship, the Rolex 24 at Daytona. He will drive one of the two Ligier JS P217s entered by the American team and will compete for the first time at the wheel of this type of car. "What an exciting and interesting project. Learning about a completely new racing category, adapting to a different car and to another style of driving and everything that goes with it, is a new challenge for me and I can’t wait to test myself again as a driver." It is no surprise however to see the Spaniard representing United Autosports given that the outfit was co-founded by Richard Dean and Zak Brown, Executive Director of the McLaren Technology Group.
This coming January, the two-time F1 world champion (2005 and 2006) will join forces with Phil Hanson (Asian Le Mans Series champion who finished 10th at his first 24 Hours of Le Mans this past June) and Lando Norris (F3 European champion and McLaren development driver). The team's second car will be driven by Will Owen and former F1 driver Paul di Resta (59 starts).
Fernando Alonso's ultimate goal is the famous Triple Crown awarded to winners of the Grand Prix of Monaco, the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He has already won Monaco twice (in 2006 with Renault and in 2007 with McLaren) and taken part in the Indianapolis 500 last May (with Andretti Autosport), leading the race for 27 laps before being forced to retire. The Rolex 24 at Daytona will serve as the Spanish driver's first foray into Endurance racing. "The Daytona 24 Hours is the most iconic U.S. endurance race and one of the world’s great races. Everyone knows it. It’s not part of the Triple Crown but, as I have always said, my aim is to be a complete driver and this experience will help me in the preparation for any other endurance race I might take part in."
The race in January is ideal for him since the F1 season will have yet to resume. "I am excited to go back and race in America. After the great time I had during the month of May for the Indy 500, I am looking forward to taking part in another legendary race that will bring back all those amazing sensations that US fans gave me. Also, this race happens at a convenient time, in January, when our F1 season is off and we are mainly working on our physical preparation. It will be good to get behind a wheel again! Thanks to United Autosports for having offered me this opportunity and thanks to McLaren for supporting me in this new exciting adventure."
Quotations and photo taken from United Autosports press release.