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Alonso begins Daytona adventure

Fernando Alonso has completed his first full preparations for his Daytona 24 Hours debut with three days of testing, but his team finished outside the top 10.

The Spaniard ran on the Daytona International Speedway oval for the first time at the weekend alongside teenage team-mates Lando Norris and Phil Hanson in the United Autosports Ligier as the 50-car field warmed up for the January 27-28 race.

Alonso was in the car for Sunday’s qualifying-style session, the results of which are used to determine the garage order for the race itself rather than the grid.

The McLaren F1 driver finished 12th fastest, 1.7s adrift of the outright pace set by former Sauber driver Felipe Nasr for Action Express Racing. Alonso’s 1:37.515 time was nonetheless the fastest set by the #23 car across the three days and eight sessions of running.

Williams driver Lance Stroll is also competing in the event and was 13th for the Jackie Chan DC Racing team, with Sky F1 pundit and Williams reserve Paul Di Resta 15th in the second United Autosports car.

The Daytona event represents the first time Alonso has competed in endurance racing – and shared a seat with other drivers – and is likely to be a precursor to a debut at the Le Mans 24 Hours in June, when he is expected to race for Toyota.

F1 in 2018: Calendar and test dates
What is every team working on?

Speaking at the end of his first day in the car on Friday, Alonso expressed hope he would adapt as quickly to the prototype car as he did an IndyCar for last year’s Indy 500 when he battled for the win before retiring.

“It’s more or less the same goal as Indianapolis,” he said. “First of all try to learn different driving techniques and to learn from the specialists of endurance races and be a better driver when the 24 Hours finishes.

“It’s the first time for me in an endurance race, the first time in a prototype car, and the first time driving at night. Many new things will come step by step. So that’s quite a big challenge but I’m ready to enjoy. And as Indianapolis, if you feel the opportunity and you feel competitive you go for it.

“As soon as you smell the blood you go for it, like the sharks.”

The 36-year-old has maintained his “main focus and priority is Formula 1 and winning the third world championship” but expects Daytona to be the first of several extra motorsport activities in 2018, with Le Mans likely to be at the centrepiece as he targets the second leg of motorsport’s Triple Crown.

“This year with McLaren we definitely have a good opportunity to show how good the team is, with the Renault power unit we should be back to the top places,” he said.

“That’s the main focus and what my preparation for the whole season is around.

“But to race in some iconic events during the season and not distributing Formula 1 is also in the plan. Doing this race is some kind of first step in an endurance championship and how these races are and how much I enjoy these races, hopefully it’s a positive answer.

“After the 24 Hours of Daytona I will have a better understanding of these championships.

“Le Mans 24 Hours and the Triple Crown is another target and if I can fit Le Mans 24 Hours this year, as I’m not doing the Indy 500, that would be great. And hopefully the following year the Indy 500 can be in the plan again.”

The full Daytona race weekend begins on Thursday 25 January, with the 24-Hour race finishing at 7.40pm UK time on the Sunday.

Sky Sports F1 is the only place to watch every Formula 1 Grand Prix, qualifying and practice session live in 2018. Get Sky Sports F1.

Fernando Alonso has completed his first full preparations for his Daytona 24 Hours debut with three days of testing, but his team finished outside the top 10.

The Spaniard ran on the Daytona International Speedway oval for the first time at the weekend alongside teenage team-mates Lando Norris and Phil Hanson in the United Autosports Ligier as the 50-car field warmed up for the January 27-28 race.

Alonso was in the car for Sunday’s qualifying-style session, the results of which are used to determine the garage order for the race itself rather than the grid.

The McLaren F1 driver finished 12th fastest, 1.7s adrift of the outright pace set by former Sauber driver Felipe Nasr for Action Express Racing. Alonso’s 1:37.515 time was nonetheless the fastest set by the #23 car across the three days and eight sessions of running.

Williams driver Lance Stroll is also competing in the event and was 13th for the Jackie Chan DC Racing team, with Sky F1 pundit and Williams reserve Paul Di Resta 15th in the second United Autosports car.

The Daytona event represents the first time Alonso has competed in endurance racing – and shared a seat with other drivers – and is likely to be a precursor to a debut at the Le Mans 24 Hours in June, when he is expected to race for Toyota.

F1 in 2018: Calendar and test dates
What is every team working on?

Speaking at the end of his first day in the car on Friday, Alonso expressed hope he would adapt as quickly to the prototype car as he did an IndyCar for last year’s Indy 500 when he battled for the win before retiring.

“It’s more or less the same goal as Indianapolis,” he said. “First of all try to learn different driving techniques and to learn from the specialists of endurance races and be a better driver when the 24 Hours finishes.

“It’s the first time for me in an endurance race, the first time in a prototype car, and the first time driving at night. Many new things will come step by step. So that’s quite a big challenge but I’m ready to enjoy. And as Indianapolis, if you feel the opportunity and you feel competitive you go for it.

“As soon as you smell the blood you go for it, like the sharks.”

The 36-year-old has maintained his “main focus and priority is Formula 1 and winning the third world championship” but expects Daytona to be the first of several extra motorsport activities in 2018, with Le Mans likely to be at the centrepiece as he targets the second leg of motorsport’s Triple Crown.

“This year with McLaren we definitely have a good opportunity to show how good the team is, with the Renault power unit we should be back to the top places,” he said.

“That’s the main focus and what my preparation for the whole season is around.

“But to race in some iconic events during the season and not distributing Formula 1 is also in the plan. Doing this race is some kind of first step in an endurance championship and how these races are and how much I enjoy these races, hopefully it’s a positive answer.

“After the 24 Hours of Daytona I will have a better understanding of these championships.

“Le Mans 24 Hours and the Triple Crown is another target and if I can fit Le Mans 24 Hours this year, as I’m not doing the Indy 500, that would be great. And hopefully the following year the Indy 500 can be in the plan again.”

The full Daytona race weekend begins on Thursday 25 January, with the 24-Hour race finishing at 7.40pm UK time on the Sunday.

Sky Sports F1 is the only place to watch every Formula 1 Grand Prix, qualifying and practice session live in 2018. Get Sky Sports F1.

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