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Alonso’s Rolex 24 debut confirmed with United Autosports

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Fernando Alonso’s sports car debut will come with United Autosports for the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, it was officially announced Thursday.

The two-time Formula 1 World Champion has spoken openly about his Triple Crown ambitions in the last year or so, with his 2017 Indianapolis 500 bow the first extra entry beyond his time in the Monaco Grand Prix, and his potential debut in the 24 Hours of Le Mans yet to come.

While the United rumor has developed in the last couple weeks, no confirmation could come until Alonso’s own Formula 1 contract got sorted with McLaren, and that got announced last week prior to the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas. This one now gets announced in advance of the Mexican Grand Prix at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

“What an exciting and interesting project. Learning about a completely new racing category, adapting to a different car and to another style of driving and everything that goes with it, is a new challenge for me and I can’t wait to test myself again as a driver,” Alonso said.

“The Daytona 24 Hours is the most iconic US endurance race and one of the world’s great races. Everyone knows it. It’s not part of the Triple Crown but, as I have always said, my aim is to be a complete driver and this experience will help me in the preparation for any other endurance race I might take part in.

“Before I went to Indy, I had never driven on an oval, now I know what an oval is and how to deal with it. I am excited to go back and race in America. After the great time I had during the month of May for the Indy 500, I am looking forward to taking part in another legendary race that will bring back all those amazing sensations that US fans gave me.

“Also, this race happens at a convenient time, in January, when our F1 season is off and we are mainly working on our physical preparation. It will be good to get behind a wheel again!

“Thanks to United Autosports for having offered me this opportunity and thanks to McLaren for supporting me in this new exciting adventure.”

Photo: United Autosports

Racing at the Rolex 24 will serve as preparation for Alonso in a similar race and with the Ligier JS P217 chassis.

United Autosports has also announced Paul di Resta, Will Owen, Lando Norris and Phil Hanson among its drivers in the pair of Gibson-powered chassis thus far.

United, the team co-owned by Zak Brown and Richard Dean, is fresh off winning the LMP3 championship in European Le Mans Series competition with Sean Rayhall and John Falb, and also came second in LMP2 with Owen, Filipe Albuquerque and Hugo de Sadeleer. The LMP3 class title is the team’s second consecutive.

IndyCar star Scott Dixon to test skills on ‘American Ninja Warrior’

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Scott Dixon will be the latest IndyCar driver to enter the realm of reality TV when he auditions in Indianapolis next week for “American Ninja Warrior.”

The four-time IndyCar champion, nicknamed “The Iceman,” thought it sounded fun when he was approached with the idea of trying out. As the competition has drawn near, Dixon is wondering what he got himself into.

“I feel a lot of pressure on this one,” Dixon told The Associated Press before heading to this weekend’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama IndyCar race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. “When it got to be about a month away, I figured I should start training for it, and it’s pretty hard stuff.”

IndyCar drivers Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden and Tony Kanaan all auditioned for the show, which follows competitors as they tackle a series of obstacle courses in qualifying rounds across the country. None of IndyCar’s contestants advanced out of the first round and neither did NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Dixon’s appearance comes about the same time the Game Show Network has Sebastien Bourdais as a guest host for “Daily Draw” for the entire week leading into the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Most recently, Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly teamed to finish fourth on “The Amazing Race,” and James Hinchcliffe was a runner-up last year on “Dancing With The Stars.” Castroneves is a former “DWTS” winner.

Dixon, the 2008 winner of the Indianapolis 500 who ranks fourth on IndyCar’s all-time wins list, is accustomed to success. But the New Zealander not so sure he’s going to become the next great ninja. Most of his fitness work focuses on endurance training, and preparing for the obstacle course has taken Dixon out of his element.

“It’s not my wheelhouse,” he said. “This is agility kind of stuff and I’m looking forward to the process. I’m not looking forward so much to the failure, because it’s going to happen at some point, so I guess I just have to make the most of it and enjoy the experience.”

Dixon was famously robbed at gunpoint in the drive-thru of a Taco Bell last year hours after he won the pole for the Indy 500. Asked if his ninja training will have him better prepared should that happen again, he did not think so.

“I suppose if I run away it would help,” Dixon said. “But I don’t exactly have a ninja toolkit to get me through that situation.”