Alonso: Rolex 24 another chance to 'get out of my comfort zone'
Fernando Alonso, who was today confirmed at United Autosports for the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, said that the main purpose of his second foray into a U.S. championship in successive years is to “try something new.”
While it has been assumed that taking part in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s banner event was Alonso's warm-up for a first shot at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the two-time F1 champion is remaining tight-lipped on specific plans, and insisted his primary purpose was to try and win at Daytona in United’s Ligier-Gibson.
He said: “To spend time in a prototype and get experience in traffic, in night racing, that is very useful for the future if I enter different races like that.
“But my full concentration is to do well in Daytona like I did in Indianapolis and when I close the visor I will go for a win and that is what matters now.
“I’m sure it’s going to be different – different ways of driving and different times of the day – sunset, night, day – and in traffic. Different tires as well, with different characteristics. To share the car with my teammates is part of the fun, and one of the things you have to learn.
“Again it’s getting out of my comfort zone and trying something new for the first time. I’ll be learning something from the very first moment. It’s great for me as a driver and part of the construction of the challenge.”
Although McLaren CEO Zak Brown is owner of United Autosports, Alonso said that his decision to sign again for the Formula 1 team in 2018 had nothing to do with his sportscar ambitions.
“The decision to remain at McLaren was completely independent,” he said. “It was the very first thing we did and it was my only priority at that moment. Once we completed the McLaren deal, I was interested in this race. I asked a very good friend of mine, Antonio Garcia [GTLM-class champion and two-time Rolex 24 winner] how was Daytona?
“I knew Zak still had a seat open [in United] so I approached him and within two days we had agreed everything.”
Asked if he might consider racing full-time in the U.S. once his Formula 1 career was over, Alonso replied: “It is possible, yes. I think right now my focus is Formula 1 and that’s why I extend my contract with McLaren and I think that the Renault power unit will be a great challenge. To fight for the world championship in Formula 1 is my only priority right now.
“As a longterm project – I am not close yet, I am still open. But my experience in the Indy 500 showed me how much fun I had in American racing, how much love I have from the fans and it’s something I may consider in the future, yeah.”
Brown: United will “bring our A-game” for Alonso’s Daytona bid
Van der Zande joins WTR for 2018 IMSA season