Two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso made his first visit to Daytona during the Roar Before the 24 and shared the experience of lapping the high banks in his United Autosports LMP2 car, along with other insights, with the IMSA media corps after the opening practice session.
“I did unfortunately only a short time this morning, only three laps, but enough to have a feeling in the car,” said Alonso. “Obviously the corners and high banking were special – you feel the compression there in the body, you feel the visibility change, because when you are in let’s say the ‘normal’ part of the circuit, horizontal, you have a view from the car that is a little bit longer ahead, while when you are in the banked corner you see only the next 200 meters of the track. So I was trying to look, you know, ‘Where was the track going?’ So it was good fun.”
The Spaniard acknowledged being struck by the immense scale of Daytona International Speedway.
“You feel, you smell motor racing here – that’s a good feeling for any driver,” he said. “The speedway is amazing – the size is huge, so I Imagine this grandstand full of people for the [Daytona 500] NASCAR race , and it would be an amazing thing to experience.”
Did that mean he wanted to experience NASCAR racing for himself?
“Not in my thoughts at the moment, because NASCAR driving techniques are very unique, those cars, so I would need a lot of practice, a lot of testing before making that adventure, and at the moment I don’t have enough weekends free with all the things that I am doing.” he replied. “So, no plans yet, but definitely after being here for the 24 Hours, definitely I will watch the race on television at least. That will be the first step!”
Alonso emphasized his Rolex 24 approach would be the same as his he took for his Indianapolis 500 debut last May.
“More or less the same goal as Indianapolis – first of all try to learn different driving techniques, try to learn from the specialists of endurance races, try to be a better driver when the 24 Hours finishes. That the aim for me: First time in an endurance race, first time in a prototype car, first time driving at night, first time driving with GT cars around. So many new things will come, step by step, so that’s quite a big challenge but I am ready to enjoy. As in Indianapolis, if you feel the opportunity and you feel competitive, you go for it.”
While making clear that the Rolex 24 is an exploratory event alongside his primary role in Formula 1 with McLaren this year, Alonso reiterated his interest in competing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this June too, if the right circumstances arise, while a possible return to Indy in 2019 is also in his thoughts.
“To race in some [other] iconic events during the season and not disturbing Formula 1 is part of the plan,” he explained. “Doing this race is a kind of first step in endurance, and how these races are and how much I enjoy them. After the 24 Hours here in Daytona I will have a better understanding of these championships. The Le Mans 24 Hours and the Triple Crown is another target, so if I can fits Le Mans this year, now that I’m not doing the Indy 500, that will be great. And hopefully the following year the Indy 500 can be in the plan again.”