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IMSA WEATHERTECH SPORTS CAR CHAMPIONSHIP: ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA


January 28, 2018


Fernando Alonso


Dayton Beach, Florida

THE MODERATOR: We're joined now by Fernando Alonso, one of the drivers of the No. 23 car for United Autosports. Fernando, the race is coming to an end, your driving stints are over. Do you want to reflect on the last couple of days for us?
FERNANDO ALONSO: I think I have a positive feeling and a positive‑‑ yeah, situation about the race. I think unfortunately we had too many issues that were out of our control. Some unlucky situations, first of all with the puncture in the third or fourth stint, we were five cars‑‑ on the lead lap, we were the fifth of those. And then with the puncture we lost four laps with quite a lot of damage on the car. We saw a lot of punctures, but not as bad as how (inaudible).
And then we did, entering the night, I think a very good part of the race, the car felt quite competitive by, let's say a surprise because we were not very competitive in practice three weeks ago and we were not competitive this week in a pure lap time pace, one lap performance, same in quality, we were 13th and 15th.

But in the race, this changed and we were probably constantly in the fastest three cars on track when we were running.

So that gave us a lot of confidence, a lot of momentum into the night, as I said. We recovered two laps and then also thanks to the safety car. And after that we had a brake issue‑‑ that was the first time that happened to the team and we lost 40 minutes. So that was the end of our race, probably.

Then we had a throttle issue and then again a brake issue. So unfortunately also for the team the sister car that was on the podium had a clutch problem and probably we lost the podium there for United. But this is racing. This is how it goes.

But as I said, positive feeling. Despite the issues and the reliability, it was a very nice experience, the whole event, the test and the quality, the restarts, the stints, the fatigue at night and the transition from night to day, that it was one of my stints where it was very nice, being on the track at that time.

So really enjoy the traffic management, the car itself. So maybe the nicest thing was how competitive we felt. Because we entered the race with no high hopes because we were never competitive, and suddenly we pick up the pace and everyone was smiling in the garage. So that was a nice feeling.

Q. Fernando, go back to what you said about the brake problems. I think it happened when you handed the car over to your teammate Lando Norris, and it was mentioned on television the brake master cylinder should be changed, which is not a big affair time‑wise. Could you speak to the engineers why it took so long, you said 40 minutes, I think, right?
FERNANDO ALONSO: No, I didn't. I didn't ask them. I think the team is very busy with the two cars running. We are lucky the drivers after the stints, we go to our motor room and we get two or three hours' sleep. They don't. They are constantly working, the mechanics, sleeping in chairs or even ten minutes between the cars, do their pit stop. So I didn't ask exactly what was the problem, but they've been racing with this car all last year.

They were at the 24 Hours Le Mans. They finished fourth. So it's a car that's well proved. It's not a new car that comes here and you have issues here and there.

So it was a bit of a surprise, a bit of unlucky, even more for our sister car because it was on the podium, clearly. We could be there. We were even one lap ahead of them in that moment. So I think we lost our opportunity here, but I have a positive outcome even with all the issues, because I really did enjoy a lot. I love driving and when you drive eight or nine hours in one race, it's much better than one. So that's a very good feeling driving 24 hours.

Q. You were driving when it had that first brake issue, right? Can you kind of explain what you felt in the car? And also did this serve as‑‑ did you feel like you got what you wanted as far as preparation for any future visit to Le Mans?
FERNANDO ALONSO: Well, on the brakes you use curve a little bit no doubt. You arrive to the first corner‑‑ it happened two times in the first corner. So you arrive there 300, 310 kilometers an hour. And then you hit the brakes and there are no brakes.

So luckily in this track you go do a little 10‑6‑‑ so you have a shortcut, interesting shortcut there. At night obviously you don't see clearly the tire wall and where there is the escape route. So that was even more scary.

But it's the way it is. You try to get the car back to the garage because you know that endurance racing this may happen and the mechanics will solve the problem. And as a preparation, absolutely yes, very nice. Very nice driving this car. And as I said the whole event and the practice and the race, driving change, communication, driver preparation between the stints, how much rest you need to have, how much in the bands you need to be in the garage, how much focus you need to have in the race and how to get ready to jump in the car.

Sometimes when you expect and sometimes when the engineer tells you that it's time to go. So I think as I said before coming here, when I went to Indianapolis, it was the first time for me in oval racing and the first time many things.

As it happened here, when‑‑ if and when I will be in Le Mans, it will be the second time, at least. So I will be much more prepared.

Q. Will you be back? Do you think you'll be back in Daytona next year or sometime in the future?
FERNANDO ALONSO: I think so. I think it's a race that is in January where normally the motor sport calendar is quite empty, where I think for us drivers it's quite convenient to come here to do this race. It's an iconic race, prestigious race. And as I said this is in one part of the year that we are quite relaxed, normally preparing ourselves for our season and wherever category you are.

And yeah, instead of being on the bicycle or in the gym, you know, you are driving. So it's much better.

Q. You were talking about Le Mans and you would be prepared if you decided to go there. Does this make you more desirous to go there or less? Is it maybe harder than you thought?
FERNANDO ALONSO: This makes me more prepared, that's for sure. As I said, I experienced things the whole event that was new for me, and next time I jump in a prototype car, closed cockpit, I know what is the feeling.

I know the traffic situations. I know the night driving. I know safety cars. I know things now that I didn't know yesterday, 24 hours ago.

So that's one of the goals for this event. And then I think it's not that I was concerned but we were not fast. We were the fastest this year, we were the fastest in our team. So that always gives you confidence.

But as I said, what I saw and what I felt in the race being faster than the other prototypes, that was a huge boost of confidence. So now I think I can drive prototype cars at a higher level than two weeks ago. So that's good.

Q. Speaking of confidence, the next time you're going to be racing is back to your normal job, Formula 1. How confident are you with the changes you made at McLaren with all that going on, going into this year that you're going to be able to improve upon the last few years and get a podium and hopefully a win?
FERNANDO ALONSO: We are very confident. I think at McLaren we make a few changes for this year. The more obvious is the power unit with the Renault Suite which I think is quite a high motivation now in the team.

The mood for all of us is quite different this year compared to the last three years. We always had expectations that the season could be a good one for us.

But I think this year we have more facts than any previous years, that they were only hopes. This year we have more numbers that we can touch, finally.

So I think as you said, we would like to be on the podiums. We'd like to be fighting for the race wins if opportunity arrives and I think the team now is ready. After three years of struggling, three years of hard learning, you are more prepared.

I think if you have three or one domination year, one time you're not that competitive or you don't have that advantage, you are not able to deliver.

While I think the struggle that we had in the last three years made the team very strong and completely ready for a fight.

Q. It's a team game here for over 24 hours. Any words for the efforts of the two young men who have been sharing that car with you and for the efforts of the team?
FERNANDO ALONSO: It was amazing teamwork. First with United Autosports, as I said, the package maybe was not as competitive as some other package out there. But we were, as I said before, very fast in the race. We were probably easy on the podium.

The other car was fighting for the podium and still be five I think or something like that. So that's amazing what United Autosports can achieve as a team.

The mechanics, we had too many issues in the race, but they kept focus and they kept motivated all the race long. That was a good example of teamwork and dedication.

And about my teammates, really maybe it's not a surprise, but for the people that don't know Lando, it will be a surprise for them. The things he did were very impressive. The teamwork, the preparation, the focus.

I think at night we will check when we switch to wet tires that there was only one stint, we were fifth, one minute behind the leader. And then we switched to slick tires, again on damp conditions, Lando driving and we were 27seconds behind the leader.

So even wet conditions, first time, in a prototype car, first time in Daytona, first time with Continental tires, he recovered 33seconds in 20 laps or something like that. So he's 18 years old. So that's quite impressive.

Q. You're a world champion and a big star. At Indy and here, you did everything that everyone asked of you. You did every interview. You went to North Carolina for this race. A lot of stars wouldn't do all that. Why do you do all this? And why do you make yourself so available?
FERNANDO ALONSO: Because exact (inaudible), saying I had to go to Charlotte. Took the flight and went to Charlotte and then came here. If I could choose I would not do it. But you understand there are some obligations when you accept a job and you try to enjoy those obligations, even if it's not your favorite part of your job.

But it's part of the game I think at Indianapolis‑‑ for Indianapolis it was a little bit harder because this time it was only that trip to Charlotte and a couple of press conferences here, but Indianapolis was a little bit more stress.

But, yeah, happy. I said in Indianapolis, I was leading the race and I was happy if anyone took the picture of the tower with the 29 on the top. And then when I stopped in the first stint, because we have one lap more fuel than the others, eventually we led two laps. So already the fans send me the picture, leading the 24 hours of Daytona. So that was‑‑ I think those moments, they pay off whatever obligations you have to do.

Q. Coming back to the idea of racing at Le Mans this year, you mentioned the other day it could be a 50/50 chance to do it this year. When do you have to decide? When is the deadline for the decision to do Le Mans this year? Because obviously there goes even more preparation into that race probably than into the Daytona 24 hours and especially with a manufacturer like Toyota. And also when you consider how much preparation Nico HĂĽlkenberg did with Porsche when he did Le Mans. So how much time does it need for you to do this? And also last year you skipped the Monaco Grand Prix because of the Indy 500. Would you consider skipping the Grand Prix this year as well to do Le Mans and all the preparations?
FERNANDO ALONSO: No, I don't consider to skip anything Formula 1 this year. I think that's my first and only priority, to be honest, Formula 1 and this championship.
If I do some extra races, they will always be second priority, even Le Mans. Because it's the first experience and you will go for it and you have to respect the race. You need to take it serious and you need to compete.
But always after McLaren. So I don't have any deadline. As I said many times, I would like to do it. But it's not only on my side, the decision. So let's see what happens. 60/40 today.

Q. You drove almost three, four Grand Prix distances in 24 hours. Do you feel some pain somewhere? Or was it really very strenuous to do this kind of distances? Because after 90 minutes in Formula 1 you are done.
FERNANDO ALONSO: Yeah, I think here the G forces are less because the grip is less. So I think it's less demanding, physically, driving these cars. But as you said, the length of the stints and how much you drive make you a little bit tired. But if I have some pain now, like in the right shoulder now or the leg, it's more because the seat position is not my ideal position.
We need to find compromise within Lando, Phil and myself. So maybe I will have pain here. Phil will have it in another place. And maybe Lando on the belts now, because they're on my side.
So these are compromises that you need to make. And the fatigue you may feel is more the night and not much sleep you can get. So I have the feeling like when you rent a car in Barcelona and need to go to Seville and you need to drive for ten hours or 12 hours you arrive to the hotel and you feel tired. But it's not any physical demand. It's just the hours behind the wheel and the things you need to put on the asphalt.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports



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