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Daytona 24 Hours will be test run for possible Le Mans bid: Alonso


Daytona Beach (Florida), Jan 6: Spanish two-time Formula One drivers' champion Fernando Alonso said he would use his maiden appearance at the Daytona 24 Hours to assess his enjoyment of endurance racing and decide whether he wants to try to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

"Doing this race is some kind of first step in endurance championship (driving), how these races are and how much I enjoy these races," Alonso was quoted as saying by Autosport.com after his first free practice session ahead of the grueling race, as reported by Efe. 

"Hopefully, it's a positive answer. After the Daytona 24 Hours, I will have a better understanding of these championships, and the Le Mans 24 Hours and the 'triple crown' is another target," the 36-year-old driver added.

"So if I can fit in the Le Mans 24 Hours this year that I'm not doing the Indy 500, that will be great. And hopefully the following year the Indy 500 can be in the plan again," Alonso further said.

Alonso has said that one of his racing ambitions is to win the so-called Triple Crown of Motorsport: the Monaco Grand Prix, an F1 race he has won twice; the Indianapolis 500, the IndyCar Series' premier event; and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is held annually in June in northwestern France.

Late British driver Graham Hill is the only individual to win the Triple Crown.

The Spaniard, who competes for McLaren in F1, said his approach in Daytona will be similar to the one he adopted in May last year in his Indy 500 debut.

"It's more or less the same goal as Indianapolis, first of all try to learn different driving techniques, try to learn from the specialists of endurance races, try to be a better driver when the 24 hours finishes," Alonso said.

"It's the first time for me in an endurance race, first time in a prototype car, first time driving at night, first time driving with GT (cars) around, so many new things that will come step by step."

"That's quite a big challenge but I'm ready to enjoy it first of all and, as happened at Indianapolis, if you feel the opportunity, if you feel competitive you go for it," he said.

Alonso's debut at the Indy 500 is considered to have been an enormously successful one, as he held the lead on several occasions before his engine blew out with just over 20 laps remaining in the 200-lap race.

Alonso said the challenge of driving at night was a "question mark," although he added that he does not "have big concerns because I think the track is quite well illuminated here."

"There will be nearly 12 hours of night driving here, so we'll try to figure it out," the Spaniard said.

In his debut on Friday at the Daytona International Speedway, Alonso, competing in the United Autosports team's Ligier JSP217, posted the sixth-fastest time in a five-lap run.

The 24 Hours of Daytona will take place on January 27-28.

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