Two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso is set to join United Autosports at next year’s Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, driving in the Prototype class in one of the team’s two Ligier JS P217s.
The 36-year-old Spaniard will make his IMSA and 24-hour race debut in Flordia at the meeting, which is the 56th running of the Rolex 24.
He will race with McLaren development driver Lando Norris, the 2017 FIA European Formula 3 champion, and reigning Asian Le Mans Series LM P3 champion Phil Hanson, the duo previously confirmed to race with the Anglo-American sportscar team.
“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 U.S. endurance race and one of the world’s great races. Everyone knows it.”
IMSA President Scott Atherton added: “We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Fernando Alonso to IMSA competition in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. 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.”
Brown, the director of the McLaren Technology Group, also orchestrated Alonso’s impressive Indy 500 debut earlier this year with Andretti Autosports/McLaren, a race in which he led for multiple laps.
This opportunity is part of Alonso’s drive to win the triple crown – a Formula One title, the Indy 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours. As of yet, Alonso has not been confirmed for a Le Mans 24 Hours drive, but DSC understands that his appearance at the Rolex 24 Hours is part of a recent surge in interest from Alonso to race in sportscars, and prepare for a potential run at La Sarthe.
“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.”
This follows on from a conversation DSC had last week with United Autosports co-owner Richard Dean, who at that point hadn’t met Alonso, but was days away from heading to Mexico for the Grand Prix, where he, Zak Brown and Alonso would all be present in the same paddock.
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 between January 5-7, 2018.
United Autosports’ other car at Daytona will include drivers Will Owen and Paul di Resta.
Featured image courtesy of Jakob Ebrey Photography.