Daytona: Alonso P13 after 'least important qualifying in my life'

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Fernando Alonso put his United Autosports Ligier LMP2 entry within one second of pole position in yesterday's Rolex 24 qualifying session.

The Spaniard's official debut at Daytona yielded the 13th fastest time, a performance which left himself just 0.925s adrift from the top spot secured by the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac of Renger van der Zande.

Despite running out of the top ten in the grid-defining session, the McLaren driver, who shares his ride this weekend with British juniors Lando Norris and Phil Hanson, deemed himself happy with his sportscar debut, but underlined the long road ahead.

"Knowing it’s a 24-hour race, it was probably the least important qualifying of my life until now," he said.

"Normally I have 60 laps or 70 laps to recover what I did in qualifying; on Saturday we have 24 Hours. Qualifying was not the key point of this weekend, hopefully.

"I think it was a good session for us," he added.

"It was nice to have some laps finally in the car with no traffic, in free practice there was a lot of traffic and a lot of things go on, but in the prototype qualy you can put some laps together and get used to the car a little bit more.

"We still need to improve a bit to find a bit more speed, in general, I think we need a good job.

"Happy to be fastest Ligier, by a good margin, we have top guys in our team – Bruno Senna is the world champion in LMP2 – he’s in the other car. We felt competitive and we achieved the maximum."

Alonso's involvement with United Autosport at Daytona is considered a prelude to an assault on Le Mans later this year with Toyota.

The two-time world champion has yet to confirm his participation at the legendary endurance race however.

"It is no secret that I would like to compete at Le Mans in the future," said Alonso.

"There are many things that must come together for it to happen, and we are trying to do what we can. If it's this year or not this year, I'm still not 100 per cent. It could happen, yes, but it's 50-50.

"I need to respect that race, also this race, and know there are a lot of guys with more experience than me and more prepared than me.

"So if I want to be as prepared as them, and to have the experience, this weekend is the perfect opportunity."

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