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Fernando Alonso set to return to Daytona

Fans of Spain's first great racing driver needn't worry, the 37-year-old has hinted at a comeback in 2019

Alonso attending a fan event during the Japan Grand Prix in October. Photo: Reuters
Alonso attending a fan event during the Japan Grand Prix in October. Photo: Reuters

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Twice Formula One champion Fernando Alonso will return to Daytona in January for another tilt at the Rolex 24 Hours endurance race, Wayne Taylor Racing said on 27 November. Alonso competed last year with United Autosports, a team owned by McLaren boss Zak Brown, before going on to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Toyota.

“Returning to the US is always special. The atmosphere created by the fans is unique throughout an incredible weekend,” said the Spaniard. “I really hope to fight for the win, as well as having fun...”

Alonso said goodbye to F1 after the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on 25 November amid a fanfare of crowd-pleasing donut spins, generous tributes and a handful of post-race penalties from the FIA. After walking through a guard of honour before the start of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Alonso pulled on his helmet and delivered a dogged drive that took him to 11th in his final outing with McLaren. It was a metaphor for much of the Spaniard’s career: he nearly finished in the points, just as he nearly became the greatest champion of his era and nearly won titles with Ferrari.

Despite two drivers’ world crowns won with Renault, in 2005 and 2006, the 37-year-old Spaniard leaves behind a feeling that his was an unfulfilled career in F1 and a legacy that is as much about his personality as his talent.

“I have been very surprised because I have raced with great champions,” he said. “I raced with Michael (Schumacher, a seven-time champion), I raced with Jenson Button. And, two or three years ago, in the same place, it was his last race and no one had all the things that I have received this weekend. So, I cannot say thanks enough to everyone.”

Alonso hinted he might even make a comeback in 2019. Once the youngest champion, he was Spain’s first great racing driver. Alonso leaves the sport with two titles, 32 race wins and boundless admirers for his talent and individuality spread through 17 seasons of success, bad career decisions and profound disappointment.

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