Alonso joins top squad for Day­tona 24

Autosport (UK) - - CONTENTS - GARY WATKINS

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.

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