Fernando Alonso continued his preparation for the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona on Tuesday, driving his first laps in United Autosports’ LMP2 Ligier JS P217 during a test at Aragon.
I’ve definitely seen his helmet somewhere before… pic.twitter.com/fgvhEczUCo
— Zak Brown (@ZBrownCEO) November 21, 2017
The Spaniard will make his sports car debut with United Autosports in the January race, sharing a car with fellow McLaren driver Lando Norris and and reigning Asian Le Mans Series LM P3 champion Phil Hanson.
At Tuesday’s test, Alonso turned laps alongside Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque, who will race for UA in the ELMS and the 24 Hours of Le Mans during the open weekends between IMSA events. Alonso arrived from Bahrain, completed a seat fitting and ran 98 laps over the course of the test, working through various set-up changes and downforce configurations along with completing a planned program of low-fuel, new tire runs and full-tank race stints.
“I had a great first test with United Autosports,” he said. “Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time. There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”
Team owner and managing director Richard Dean called the stint “hugely impressive.”
“We’ve had a good first test with Fernando,” he said. “We shouldn’t be surprised that it took him no time at all to get used to the car and the circuit having never driven here. He immediately got down to really competitive times and set to work understanding the car and doing long runs and race distance stuff – hugely impressive.”
Alonso’s next run in the car will be at the ROAR before the 24 test at Daytona in early January.
The test comes two days after Alonso ran 113 laps in a Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 HYBRID during the post-season FIA WEC Rookie Test in Bahrain. Clocking up 380 miles of running in the car, his best time a 1m43.013s, put him second of the three LMP1 rookies who turned laps in the Suday’s two sessions. Notably, he was just under a second off full-time Toyota driver Sebastien Buemi’s best time.
Alonso has McLaren’s blessing to race for Toyota at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2018 if approached, RACER understands.