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TUSC: Ganassi to run Fords in merged sports car series

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Any game Roger Penske can play when it comes to spreading his wings among different manufacturers, Chip Ganassi can play too.

Chip Ganassi Racing announced Tuesday at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas it will run Ford Ecoboost powerplants in its Daytona Prototype entries in the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. The move is a switch from the Dinan-built, BMW power it has used for several seasons.

The team is the second to announce it will run the Ford Ecoboost V6 turbos in the TUDOR Championship, along with Michael Shank Racing. MSR set a Daytona speed record with the engine and driver Colin Braun last month.

Ganassi’s IndyCar and NASCAR operations run with Chevrolet powerplants, and the immediate question when the IndyCar switch was announced back in Houston last month was whether the sports car operation would follow suit.

Penske, meanwhile, runs Fords in NASCAR, and Chevrolets in IndyCar. “The Captain” does not have a sports car program lined up for 2014.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.