The Rolex 24 At Daytona has enjoyed outstanding driver star power throughout its history, including NASCAR and IndyCar champions, the world’s greatest sports car racers, and the occasional Formula 1 World Champion.
The 56th Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 27-28, 2018 will feature another one. Two-time F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso was confirmed today to compete in the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener as part of a two-car lineup from the United Kingdom-based United Autosports team.
Alonso will co-drive a Ligier LM P2 with McLaren development driver Lando Norris, the 2017 FIA European Formula 3 champion, and reigning Asian Le Mans Series LM P3 champion Phil Hanson and will battle for the overall victory in the WeatherTech Championship’s top Prototype class. It will be Alonso’s first appearance in North America’s premier endurance race and comes on the heels of his first Indianapolis 500 appearance in 2017 where he garnered worldwide attention and was honored as Rookie of the Year.
“What an exciting and interesting project,” Alonso said. “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.”
The 36-year-old Alonso is one of the most popular drivers in F1. He won back-to-back World Championships in 2005 and 2006, and has won 36 Grands Prix in an F1 career that began in 2003.
“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Fernando Alonso to IMSA competition in the Rolex 24 At Daytona,” said International Motor Sports Association president Scott Atherton. “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,” he added.
The Spaniard’s Rolex 24 At Daytona appearance is being made possible by the same person who brokered the 2017 Indy 500 effort, Zak Brown, who is executive director of McLaren Technology Group, Alonso’s current F1 team, and also owner of the United Autosports sports car team. The team’s other car at Daytona will include drivers Will Owen and Paul di Resta.
“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 LM P2 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 and Lando.”
In addition to the race itself, Alonso and the United Autosports team will participate in the mandatory Roar Before The Rolex 24 At Daytona test on January 5-7, 2018. The test is open to the public on all three days.