Daytona will be 'useful for the future', hints Alonso

Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Singapore Grand Prix
© XPB 

Fernando Alonso says his confirmed outing in next year's Rolex 24 at Daytona is an investment in his racing future.

Alonso officially announced his Daytona entry on Thursday. He'll be racing for United Autosports, the team co-owned by McLaren executive director Zak Brown.

His co-drivers will be regular team driver Phil Hanson, and newly crowned European Formula 3 champion Lando Norris. Norris is expected to be appointed as McLaren's test and development driver next season.

"The Daytona 24 Hours is the most iconic US endurance race and one of the world's great races," he said. "Everyone knows it."

The two-time world champion insists that his immediate focus remains Formula 1, having signed a one-year extension to stay at McLaren in 2018. But it seems clear that the 36-year-old is also contemplating his longer term plans.

"I think right now my priority is Formula 1, that’s why I partnered with McLaren together with Renault power unit," he said. "That’s my first and only priority now.

"Long-term prospects are not closed yet, they’re still open," he teased.

Alonso made global headlines in May when he entered this year's Indianapolis 500. It meant he had to drop out of the Monaco Grand Prix which was held on the same day. However, he's ruled out a return to Indy in 2018.

His upcoming début in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is primarily seen as a way to prepare for entering Le Mans later in the year. Along with Monaco and Indy, Le Mans is the third event in motorsports' famed Triple Crown.

"[Daytona] is not part of the Triple Crown," Alonso noted. "But as I have always said, my aim is to be a complete driver.

"This experience will help me in the preparation for any other endurance race I might take part in.

"First time in a prototype car, some nice experience I’m sure in traffic, night racing. It might be useful for the future."

Alonso did well in the Indy 500, even leading the race before his engine failed in the closing stages. That was despite having much opportunity to practice on oval tracks before the race.

"Before I went to Indy I had never driven on an oval," he admitted. "Now I know what an oval is and how to deal with it, I am excited to go back and race in America.

"My experience in Indy 500 showed how much fun I can have in American racing, how much love I get from the fans.

"I am looking forward to taking part in another legendary race that will bring back all those amazing sensations that US fans gave me.

"As I did in Indianapolis even if I don’t have experience, when I close the visor, I will go for a win and that’s what matters now."

Alonso said that it was "possible" that his participation at Daytona could lead to a full time involvement in US sports car racing once his time in Formula 1 is done.

"Right now my full concentration and full motivation is to do well in Daytona," he added.

Gallery: The beautiful wives and girlfriends of F1 drivers

Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter