By Alan Baldwin
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, who made a big impression in the Indianapolis 500 this year, could enter the Daytona 24 Hours sportscar race in January ahead of a later attempt to win Le Mans.
The double Formula One world champion, now confirmed for another year at McLaren, told reporters at the U.S. Grand Prix that Daytona was under consideration.
“The first priority was to finalize the F1 deal and now that is done, I will look at the other options,” he said when asked specifically about Daytona.
“For the Indy 500 it was a nice experience, I felt very competitive but it was a big challenge that I took from zero, from no testing, not any similar race before it.
“If I want to prepare Le Mans, maybe there are other possibilities to prepare Le Mans a little bit better than I prepared the Indy 500.”
McLaren executive director Zak Brown said Alonso’s new multi-year agreement allows him to race in other events so long as the Formula One team’s activities are not compromised.
Alonso missed the Monaco Grand Prix to race at Indianapolis this year but that was fully sanctioned by the team and Honda because of their dismal performance in the Formula One championship.
McLaren expect to be much more competitive next season with a switch to Renault engines but Le Mans would still be a possibility because that endurance classic does not clash with any grand prix.
“If Fernando wants to do Daytona and we have a seat available, we would put his name on it happily,” said Brown, whose United Autosports team has an entry to that race.
“We’ve started joking around about it, and we saw where jokes got us last time,” added the American.
Alonso first started discussing the Indy 500 with Brown after a comment made in jest before Formula One’s Australian season-opener in March.
“Zak asked me (about) my ambitions and my plans for the future. So I mentioned the Triple Crown. To be the best driver in the world,” Alonso said back in April when relating how the Indy plan came about.
“I have to either win eight world championships, and have one more than Michael Schumacher, or be winning different series.”
The Triple Crown — variously interpreted as the F1 championship, Le Mans and Indy 500 or the Monaco GP and the same two races — has been achieved only by Briton Graham Hill.
Alonso has won both Monaco and the world championship and led at Indianapolis before his car’s Honda engine expired. The Spaniard said he had not yet spoken to any team about a Le Mans race seat.
“If the opportunity comes, I will try to exploit that opportunity,” he said.
“If that is something that makes sense, as we did with the Indy 500, we will try to do it.”
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)