DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — United Autosports officials have confirmed Fernando Alonso will race for the team in the Rolex 24 At Daytona next January at Daytona Int’l Speedway.
The two-time Formula One champion and race winner will race the team’s Ligier JS P217 alongside previously announced drivers Phil Hanson and Lando Norris.
“I’m thrilled we have managed to put a deal together to get Fernando in the car at Daytona. Although he hasn’t driven an LMP2 car before I’m confident he will pick it up quickly,” said Zak Brown, team owner and chairman, United Autosports. “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.”
Norris is currently a McLaren development driver and this year raced in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship, winning the championship with two races to spare. This championship win made him the youngest ever European F3 champion.
Hanson, who is the reigning Asian Le Mans Series LMP3 Champion, already has experience of the Ligier JS P217, having raced in the European Le Mans Series and the Le Mans 24 Hours this year. At 17 years old, Hanson became the youngest driver to finish in the top 10 at the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Alonso races for McLaren, but started his F-1 career in 2001 racing for Minardi. In 2003 he moved to Renault, where he won both his F1 championship titles in 2005-2006. He then moved to McLaren for the 2007 season, before returning to Renault in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, Alonso moved to Ferrari before returning to McLaren in 2015. Winning his second F1 title in 2006 made him the youngest two-time champion at that time.
“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. The Daytona 24 Hours is the most iconic U.S. endurance race and one of the world’s great races. Everyone knows it,” said Alonso. “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.”
The Rolex 24 At Daytona will mark the first time the Spaniard has raced a prototype sports car, however, he is no stranger to taking part in one-off races. He entered this year’s Indianapolis 500 with Andretti Autosport, which he led for 27 laps, and was in contention for the win until forced to retire 21 laps from the end.
“After a 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,” added Alonso. “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.”
“The Rolex 24 At Daytona is North America’s most prestigious sports car race and the kick-off event to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season. Over the years, champion drivers from various racing disciplines such as NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula 1 have competed against the world’s best sports car racers in the Rolex 24, including most recently three-time Daytona 500 champion Jeff Gordon,” said Chip Wile, president, Daytona Int’l Speedway. “Daytona Int’l Speedway welcomes the participation of two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso in one of sports cars’ most demanding and iconic events, the Rolex 24.”
The official test, the Roar before the 24, takes place on Jan. 5-7 with the Rolex 24 At Daytona being held two weeks later on Jan. 26-27.