Fernando Alonso is to contest next January’s Daytona 24 Hours sportscar race in Florida, McLaren have confirmed. Alonso will race for the United Autosports team in what will be his first-ever endurance event.
The Spaniard will share one of the team’s Ligier cars with McLaren development driver Lando Norris, recent winner of the FIA European Formula 3 title, and established sportscar racer Phil Hanson.
“What an exciting and interesting project,” Alonso told McLaren. “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.”
Two-time F1 champion Alonso has made no secret of his ambitions relating to motorsport’s ‘Triple Crown’ (winning the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indianapolis 500 and the Le Mans 24 Hours), and led this year’s Indy 500 for Andretti Autosport before being forced to retire 21 laps from home.
"The Daytona 24 Hours is the most iconic US endurance race and one of the world’s great races,” he continued. “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.
"Before I went to Indy, I had never driven on an oval, now I know what an oval is and how to deal with it. 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.”
United Motorsports – co-owned by McLaren’s Executive Director, Zak Brown – will enter two Ligier JS P217s in the Daytona race, with Williams’ F1 reserve Paul di Resta also among their confirmed driver line-up.
Other current F1 stars with endurance sportscar experience include Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2015, and Toro Rosso’s recent recruit Brendon Hartley, this year’s Le Mans victor and 2015 WEC champion.