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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.

It’s official: Laguna Seca to host INDYCAR for at least next 3 seasons

Laguna Seca, from the 1991 CART race there. Photo: Getty Images
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INDYCAR made it official today: the 2019 season-ending race will move a couple of hours down the Northern California coast to WeatherTechRaceway Laguna Seca.

Sonoma Raceway, which has hosted INDYCAR since 2005 – including the last five season-ending races (that includes this year’s upcoming season finale) – will not be part of next season’s schedule.

Earlier today, the Monterey County (Calif.) Board of Supervisors, which oversees operation of the iconic racing facility, approved a three-year agreement with INDYCAR to host next year’s season finale on Sept. 20-22, 2019.

The remaining two race dates for 2020 and 2021 will be announced later, according to an INDYCAR media release.

The 2.238-mile permanent road course previously hosted CART and Champ Car World Series Indy car races from 1983 through 2004, including the season-ending races from 1989 through 1996.

“I can’t imagine a more attractive destination location for INDYCAR’s season finale,” Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said in a statement. “Monterey is a place people want to be, and we will bring all of our guests. I think it’s a great choice for us.”

Bobby Rahal, former CART/CCWS driver and current INDYCAR team co-owner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, won four of the prior 22 previous Indy car races at Laguna Seca, all consecutively (1984-87).

“It’s great news, but I might be biased,” Rahal said. “I personally won four Indy car races there and won my first Can-Am race there. Our Indy car team won with Bryan Herta and Max Papis and our sports car team won IMSA races there.

“So I would almost bet you that Laguna Seca is the site of more victories for me as a driver and team owner combined of any track I’ve ever raced on.

“There is nothing better than the Monterey Bay area, and it’s a great circuit that always drew great crowds. So I’m thrilled to have Indy car racing coming back to a circuit I love so much. We will put on a good show, for sure.”

In addition to Rahal as a multiple winner, two-time winners at Laguna Seca were fellow current INDYCAR team co-owners Michael Andretti and Bryan Herta, INDYCAR on NBCSN analyst Paul Tracy, Danny Sullivan and Patrick Carpentier.

“The return of INDYCAR to its spiritual road racing home of Laguna Seca is a tremendous honor and testament to the appeal of Monterey, and through the support of the County of Monterey will provide a significant economic benefit to our area businesses,” said Timothy McGrane, CEO of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, “We are looking forward to creating more memories in race fans’ minds like Bobby Rahal’s four consecutive Indy car wins from 1984-1987, Mario Andretti’s farewell race in 1994 and Alex Zanardi’s last-lap overtaking of Bryan Herta in the Corkscrew in 1996 that simply became known as ‘The Pass.'”

NBC Sports Group has secured exclusive domestic television and digital media rights for INDYCAR races beginning in 2019. Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, agreed that Laguna Seca is an ideal venue to close out the schedule.

“We commend INDYCAR for returning to Laguna Seca, a historic track and an inspired place for the 2019 season finale,” Miller said. “The 2019 season will be our first as the exclusive media rights partner of INDYCAR, and we could not be more pleased to broadcast the championship from beautiful Monterrey.”

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