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Alonso readies for Daytona, eyes Le Mans

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McLaren’s Spanish driver Fernando Alonso drives during the second practice session ahead of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on November 24, 2017 © AFP/File / Andrej ISAKOVIC

MIAMI, United States, Jan 26Former Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso will fill in another gap on his motor-racing resume on Saturday when he takes part in the 24 Hours of Daytona, giving him vital experience for a possible future crack at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

After trying his luck at last year’s Indianapolis 500, the 36-year-old Spaniard will take a spin around another iconic US venue at Daytona International Speedway, best known for hosting NASCAR’s prestigious Daytona 500.

Alonso’s participation is part of the McLaren driver’s broader quest to complete the “Triple Crown” of motor-racing — wins at the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy500 and Le Mans.

Only one other driver — Graham Hill — has successfully achieved that hat-trick. Alonso has two wins in Monaco, and impressed at the Indy500 on his debut last year.

This weekend he will be racing a prototype Ligier JS P217 for the United Autosports team, which is owned by his F1 boss Zak Brown. Team-mates will include Phil Hanson and Lando Norris, a long-time reserve driver at McLaren.

Alonso meanwhile is looking forward to being pushed out of his comfort zone in the gruelling day-night race.

“I know it could be useful for the future, my first time in a prototype car, and some nice experience I’m sure in traffic, night racing,” Alonso said.

“The biggest thing is to adapt to this driving style. I’m sure it will be different, different ways of driving, different times of the day, with day and night, and traffic.”

Alonso served notice of his ability to adapt to new environments at Indianapolis last year, when he confounded sceptics by leading for 27 laps before withdrawing 20 laps from the finish due to engine failure.

The Spaniard got his first taste of endurance racing last year in Bahrain, when he took part in tests for Toyota.

He told reporters on Thursday he remains optimistic about racing in Le Mans, rating his chances as 50-50.

McLaren have indicated Alonso will be free to race at Circuit de la Sarthe on June 16-17 should he wish to do so as it does not clash with his F1 commitments.

“It’s no secret that I would like to race at Le Mans in the future. If it’s this year or not this year, I’m still not 100 percent sure,” Alonso said.

“It could happen, yes. (It’s) 50/50. There are many things that you need to put together to make it happen, and we are trying to do everything we can.

“Hopefully yes is the answer, but whether it will be yes or no, you will all know at the same time as I do.”

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