The driver with perhaps the most amount of attention on him at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona was two-time FIA Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso, who along with United Autosports was making his debut at the Rolex this past weekend.
The race began well for Alonso, who started the No. 23 Ligier JS P217 Gibson. He steadily worked his way forward and even led for a brief time during an exchange of pit stops early in the race. Despite falling a lap off the lead in the opening hours, he and co-drivers Phil Hanson and Lando Norris seemed poised to be contenders throughout the race.
However, during the night, things took a turn for the worse. After suffering a punctured right-rear tire, one of a number of teams to suffer tire problems during the race, the car began to suffer from brake problems, forcing Alonso into the pits unexpectedly and eventually into the garage for repairs.
Even though they were able to rejoin, they did so having lost an insurmountable amount of ground. At the end, they were 90 laps down to the race-winning No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi, finishing 13th in the Prototype class (38th overall).
Alonso lamented such problems, as he felt that the car had the pace to compete for a podium finish. “The pace was there. We didn’t have the pace in practice and qualifying, but today we were very competitive. We were second-third fastest. At least a podium was a possibility,” he said during the FS1 broadcast.
However, he remained upbeat about the experience, emphasizing that he enjoyed driving the LMP2 car. “It was a shame but nevertheless, I’m having fun,” he said after climbing from the car following his final stint. “I’m sad when there’s a driving change, I don’t want to get out of the car because when I’m driving it, I’m enjoying it. It’s been a nice experience.”
Speculation now turns to whether or not Alonso’s next 24-hour endurance race will be this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. With no Formula 1 race clashing with it, it is possible that he could be entered in that race, although nothing has been confirmed at the moment.
Alonso will now return to his regular duty as a driver for McLaren F1 Team.