Fernando Alonso enjoys learning curve despite Daytona frustrations
Alonso's car suffers unreliability, but Spaniard says "now I can drive prototype cars at a higher level than two weeks ago"; McLaren driver expected to race for Toyota at Le Mans in June
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 29/01/18 3:32pm
Fernando Alonso said he enjoyed his first experience of a 24-hour race despite technical problems hampering his sportscar debut at Daytona.
The McLaren driver, who is expected to take part in June's Le Mans 24 Hours, finished 38th overall and 13th in class alongside teenage team-mates Lando Norris and Phil Hanson.
The number 23 United Autosports car had run as high as sixth from 13th on the grid into the early hours of the night but a combination of problems - including a puncture and brake failure - dropped it down the field.
However, there was success for the sister car with a line-up featuring Sky F1's Paul di Resta finishing a fine fourth despite their own reliability setbacks.
"I have a positive feeling about this weekend's race and the whole event, I really did enjoy this a lot," said Alonso.
"I love driving and doing this for eight or nine hours in a race is great! Unfortunately, we had too many issues that were out of our control, some unlucky situations like the puncture.
"In one of the first opening stints we were the fifth car of five on the lead lap but with the puncture we lost four laps as there was also quite a lot of damage on the car.
"Entering the night was quite a good part of the race, as the car felt quite competitive, surprisingly, as it had never been like that before. We made some changes after practice and qualifying and today we were consistently one of the three fastest cars."
Alonso added: "Despite the issues we had, I have a good taste in my mouth as I learned how to cope with the fatigue, traffic management, full course yellows, night driving, driver change procedures, driving preparation between the stints like how much rest you need to have and the amount of time you need to allow in the garage before taking over the car again.
"So, if and when I ever do another 24hr, I'll be much more prepared as it'll be my second time. Now I think I can drive prototype cars at a higher level than two weeks ago."
Alonso set for Le Mans and more with Toyota
Although a drive has yet to be announced, Alonso's participation at Daytona has always been regarded as a pre-cursor to a first assault on the Le Mans 24 Hours this summer.
It is understood Alonso is set to agree to race for Toyota at Le Mans and in other events during the World Endurance Championship 'super season'.
The new extended 13-month campaign starts on May 5 with the Six Hours of Spa on the free weekend between the Azerbaijan and Spanish GPs, with the Le Mans 24 Hours the second round on June 16-17.
Of the five 2018 events, only the Japanese round at Fuji (October 21) clashes with an F1 weekend (USA). Alonso has already made clear his priority remains F1 with McLaren expecting to return to podium contention in the new season with Renault engines.
But the Spaniard has also expressed his determination to complete motorsport's Triple Crown of the Monaco GP, Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans. With two Monaco wins behind him in F1, Alonso's Indy 500 came last May and he was in contention for victory until a late engine failure.
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