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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.

Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.

The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.

But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.

It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).