Ron Dennis takes control of McLaren Group

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Ron Dennis is back in charge at McLaren.

Dennis, the former CEO of McLaren Group from 1982 to 2012 and former team principal for McLaren’s Formula One program from 1982 to 2009, has been appointed to the CEO post with immediate effect.

Saying that company shareholders have “mandated [him] to write an exciting new chapter in the story of McLaren,” Whitmarsh laid out some short-term plans for the Group in his statement.

“Over the coming weeks, I intend to undertake a thorough and objective review of each of our businesses with the intention of optimizing every aspect of our existing operations, whilst identifying new areas of growth that capitalize on our technologies, and where appropriate, further investing in them,” he said.

“During February, I will articulate a new Group strategy and implement the organizational structure best suited to achieving it. I am excited by the prospect of returning to the role of Group Chief Executive Officer and working with my many colleagues and fellow shareholders to fulfill our objective – which is to win at whatever we do.”

The news could have a major impact on the F1 side, as Dennis is replacing current team principal Martin Whitmarsh as CEO.

Considering Dennis’ comments on a new strategy for McLaren, Whitmarsh’s job may very well be in trouble at this time – although it must be stressed that he remains in the fold for now.

McLaren, as a whole, could be in for a major jolt after the team suffered through a woeful 2013 in which it failed to hit the podium for the first time since the 1980 season.

According to BBC F1 writer Andrew Benson, Dennis told the staff “there will be change” at a meeting today in the team’s Woking headquarters. He also said “we will win again.”

Plans for Alonso sports car debut in Rolex 24 gathering speed

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Plans for McLaren Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso to appear in next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona are gathering speed as the two-time World Champion angles for a drive at Le Mans in 2018.

Alonso announced on Thursday he had signed a new, multi-year deal to remain with McLaren in F1, but has left the door open to continue his pursuit of the Triple Crown of Motorsport and become just the second driver in history to complete it.

Alonso has won the Monaco Grand Prix twice and made his Indianapolis 500 debut this year, retiring with an engine issue, and has made no secret of his ambition to race at Le Mans one day.

With no date clashes, the possibility exists for Alonso to race at Le Mans in 2018, potentially with Toyota in the LMP1 class following McLaren’s split with Honda.

However, Alonso could make his 24-hour race debut five months earlier, with reports emerging on Thursday that he could be in line to appear in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

First reported by Sportscar365, Alonso could be set to race for McLaren executive director Zak Brown’s team, United Autosports, at Daytona in January, with no clashes existing with his F1 commitments.

Alonso remained coy when asked about the chances of him appearing at Daytona, but admitted additional preparation for a possible Le Mans appearance would be of interest.

“For the Indy 500 it was a nice experience, I felt very competitive but it was a big challenge that I took from zero, from no testing, not any similar race before it,” Alonso said, as quoted by Reuters.

“If I want to prepare Le Mans, maybe there are other possibilities to prepare Le Mans a little bit better than I prepared the Indy 500.”

He added more about his other race program in Thursday’s pre-race Paddock Pass episode, speaking to NBCSN. “To be the best driver in the world you have to win in different series at different times. It’s possible I can compete in different races next year,” he said.

Brown said he would be happy to field Alonso at Daytona, and confirmed their pair had already loosely discussed it.

“If Fernando wants to do Daytona and we have a seat available, we would put his name on it happily,” Brown said.

“We’ve started joking around about it, and we saw where jokes got us last time,” he added, referencing the eventual entry to the Indy 500.

United Autosports will field two JS P217 cars at Daytona in January, and has already confirmed ex-F1 racer Paul di Resta, McLaren junior Lando Norris, American endurance racer Will Owen and Danish youngster Philip Hanson in seats.

McLaren reserve and 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button had been linked with a drive for United Autosports at Daytona, but Brown confirmed to Sportscar365 this was no longer an option.

“Jenson won’t be driving for us. I don’t know what he’s going to be doing,” Brown said.

“I thought he was going to be in the Penske car. Not sure what happened there.”