Alonso joins top squad for Daytona 24
DAYTONA 24 HOURS
Fernando Alonso was top of Wayne Taylor’s list when he went looking for drivers to bolster his team’s line-up for next month’s Daytona 24 Hours. But he ended up signing another name from Toyota’s World Endurance Championship squad first: Kamui Kobayashi.
Now Wayne Taylor Racing has ended up with the pair of them in its Cadillac DPI.V-R alongside full-season drivers Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande for the IMSA Sportscar Championship opener on January 26-27. And Taylor Sr is understandably billing it as “the best driver line-up in the race”.
Taylor met with Alonso on his sportscar debut at Daytona this year with the United Autosports squad. That contact was maintained through the season in what the team owner calls an “up-and-down” struggle to sign him for 2019. When it looked like Alonso wasn’t going to be available, Taylor and WTR co-owner
Max Angelelli turned to Kobayashi.
“We wanted drivers with the best possible sportscar experience,” explains Taylor. “Max has known Kamui for a long time, so we called him when
Alonso was looking unlikely, and we actually got his signature first.”
Taylor’s preference was to run four drivers at Daytona – something WTR has done in three of the past five years – and was ready when Alonso came back into the frame. “A driver can get sick, and that gives you a problem if you only have a three-man team,” he says. “Fernando became available again and it all came together very quickly.”
Alonso will be getting into a racewinning car this time around, Taylor points out. He drove for a newcomer to Daytona in 2018, whereas next month he will be racing for an established IMSA frontrunner that won both the 24 Hours and the championship in 2017.
Alonso says he’s looking forward to “attempting to conquer one of the most important races in the world” as he gears up for the beginning of what is likely to be an eclectic 2019 race programme. He reckons he’s “brimming with hunger and desire” as he aims to add a second 24-hour victory to his 2018 Le Mans success.
WTR and Cadillac will again face opposition from Nissan in the Daytona Prototype ranks. The CORE Autosport squad, this year’s IMSA series runner-up, will run one of the Onroak-nissan Dpis formerly raced by Extreme Speed Motorsports. CORE has reversed its decision to stick with its ORECA-GIBSON 07 after one of the Nissans, which is based on the Ligier JSP217, became available after ESM closed its doors following the loss of title sponsor Tequila Patron.