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"Constructive" weekend at Daytona for Alonso

NEWS STORY
08/01/2018

Fernando Alonso and United Autosports will return to the Daytona International Speedway later this month primed for the Rolex 24 At Daytona race week (25-28 Jan) after a constructive three-day official test at the Floridian venue.

The Anglo-American team clocked up a total of almost 1,500-miles with its brace of Ligier JS P217 sports-prototypes at the "Roar" that compete for top-placings in the annual race being run for the 56th time.

Practice was split into seven sessions over three days with a total of 510 mins of on-track time for the 50-car, three class field which included evening running.

Five of its seven driver squad had never even seen, let alone driven on the 3.56-mile, 12-turn course utilising sections of the famed "banked oval" plus infield section prior to Friday"s opening test session.

Alonso, McLaren test and reserve driver Lando Norris and Paul di Resta, were experiencing only their second test in the Ligier while Bruno Senna, United"s only driver with previous Daytona race experience, had his very first run with the team on Friday morning.

Alonso's best time was a 1:37.515, 1.7s off the best time set by pace-setter Felipe Nasr, which put the Spaniard 12th fastest of the 20 prototypes on duty.

However, while the session determines the allocation of pit boxes and garages it has no impact on the grid for the race which takes place at the end of the month.

"It's been a positive test but we need to find more pace. It was good to experience the Daytona track for the first time. I now feel better prepared for the race in terms of having to make compromises due to sharing the car. It was good to work with Lando, Phil and the team. Driving in the night session was not a big difference as the circuit is well illuminated - also in F1 we have some races in the dark - I had no big issues with that or the traffic. I had a very nice welcome from the American fans and cannot wait to see more of them at the race."

"It's been a positive test," said Alonso, "but we need to find more pace.

"It was good to experience the Daytona track for the first time," he continued. "I now feel better prepared for the race in terms of having to make compromises due to sharing the car.

"It was good to work with Lando, Phil and the team. Driving in the night session was not a big difference as the circuit is well illuminated - also in F1 we have some races in the dark - I had no big issues with that or the traffic. I had a very nice welcome from the American fans and cannot wait to see more of them at the race."

"We've made progress every day and all three #23 drivers are working well together," added Norris, "but there is still a way to go in terms of car performance.

"I arrived at Daytona with less than 200 testing miles from Paul Ricard under my belt. We've been playing catch-up compared to our rivals due to Ligier's new aero kit which we're running for the first time.

"Although we've had seven sessions over the past three days, with three drivers sharing the car the time behind the wheel goes very quickly. But it's been a fun experience and the DIS is super cool."

"The Roar has given me a good taste of what the Speedway, and especially the oval, is all about," said di Resta. "On my first run the steep banking made me feel a little dizzy and it was an interesting experience having cars running either side of my car. Bruno, who has previous race experience here, is able to pass on tips but all seven United drivers are working well together.

"Sharing a car is a different scenario for me but it's proving enjoyable. It's a strong field with the majority already very experienced with the way the US racing scene works."

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