After weeks of speculation, United Autosports made it official on Thursday. Two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso will compete for the team in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. Alonso will share a Ligier JS P217-Gibson with Lando Norris and Phil Hanson.
Since the race is in January, it does not conflict with any of Alonso’s duties with McLaren. He’s looking to Daytona as a learning experience.
“What an exciting and interesting project,” Alonso said in a press release. “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. The Daytona 24 Hours is the most iconic US 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.
“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,” Alonso continued. “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.”
As United Autosports is owned by Zak Brown, his de facto boss at McLaren, permission was no problem at all. Brown is happy that Alonso’s decided to take the plunge.
“I’m thrilled we have managed to put a deal together to get Fernando in the car at Daytona,” Brown said. “Although he hasn’t driven an LMP2 car before, I’m confident he will pick it up quickly. He’s one of the best drivers around so it will be great to have him as part of the team, not only for his speed, but for his experience and the invaluable knowledge he will pass onto Phil [Hanson] and Lando [Norris].”
For Alonso, Daytona is merely a dress rehearsal. He wants to win at Le Mans. As of right now, he does not have a ride for June’s 24-hour classic in France. However, the race is on an off-week for the World Championship and he has the support of McLaren if he chooses to do it.
United Autosports still has not fully announced their driver lineups for Daytona. There is at least one more seat open in the second car alongside Paul di Resta and William Owen. The team will announce their sixth and final driver at a later date.