(Photo by Dean Treml/Red Bull via Getty Images)

2018 Le Mans date set; 258,500 attended this year’s race

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The 24 Hours of Le Mans continues in the same weekend and the same dates (basically) as it did in 2017, with the 2018 date confirmed for June 16-17 of next year.

This marks the first FIA World Endurance Championship race date revealed for next season, with others to follow.

The releases of the first draft of the Formula 1 and Formula E 2018 schedules offer a good glimpse into potential conflict weekends though.

Alas, Le Mans is non-conflicting with either championship, and with the return of the French Grand Prix a week later, June 23-24 at Paul Ricard, there could be a two-week double dip in France if any active F1 driver can take on Le Mans next season.

The Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) announced Sunday that 258,500 spectators had taken in this year’s Le Mans, continuing its stronghold as the marquee endurance race in the world from a spectator standpoint.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: 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.