Fernando Alonso believes the reliability problems his United Autosports team faced during the Rolex 24 At Daytona made the race a lost opportunity to challenge for honors.
Having qualified down in 13th place, the No.23 car also being driven by Lando Norris and Phil Hanson climbed up into podium contention through an impressive stint from Norris as rain fell on Saturday night. However, a puncture for Hanson was followed by a brake issue for Alonso that forced the No.23 back to the garage for 40 minutes. After an additional fly-by-wire problem, a repeat of the brake issue dropped the car down the field to an eventual 38th-place finish, and Alonso – who was surprised by the team’s competitiveness – was left to rue what might have been.
“The team is very busy with two cars running,” Alonso said when asked if he was surprised at the time it took to replace the brake master cylinder. “We are lucky – the drivers – after our stints we get to go back to our motorhomes and we get two or three hours sleep. The mechanics don’t, they are constantly working, sleeping in chairs for even 10 minutes until the cars do their pit stops.
“I didn’t ask exactly what the problem was, but they’ve been racing with this car all last year. They were at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, they finished fourth, so it’s a car that is well proven. It’s not a new car where you come here and you have issues here and there. So it was a little bit of a surprise and a little bit unlucky. Even more for our sister car that was in the podium, clearly.
“We could be there. We were even one lap ahead of them at that moment. So we lost our opportunity here, but I have a positive outcome even with all the issues because I really did enjoy it a lot. I love driving and when you drive eight or nine hours in one race it’s much better than one. So it’s a very good feeling driving 24 hours.”
Having been at the wheel when the car suffered a brake problem on two occasions – causing him to go straight on at Turn 1 – Alonso admits such a failure was concerning to deal with.
“On the brakes you are a little bit scared, no doubt. You arrive at the first corner – it happened twice at the first corner – so you arrive there around 300-310kph (190mph) and then you hit the brakes and there are no brakes. So luckily in this track you go directly to Turn 6, so you have an interesting shortcut there.
“At night obviously you don’t clearly see the tire wall or where this escape road is, so that was even more scary, but it’s the way it is. You try to get the car back to the garage because you know in endurance racing this may happen and the mechanics will solve the problem.”
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