Fernando Alonso has added the Rolex 24 Hours to his growing list of race victories outside of Formula One, after driving as part of the winning team at the Daytona International Speedway this weekend.
Alonso joined teammates Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande and Kamui Kobayashi in the No.10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac, taking overall victory in the DPi class. The race was plagued by rain storms from 05:00 in the morning and was stopped for good due to heavy rain with two hours remaining.
When the race was red flagged, Alonso was on track and leading ahead of fellow former F1 driver Felipe Nasr in the No.31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac. The No.7 Team Penske Acura -- at that point piloted by another ex-F1 driver, Alexander Rossi -- was also on the lead lap and finished third in the final standings.
Just prior to the stoppage, Alonso and Nasr had been engaged in a thrilling battle for the lead as heavy rain fell on track. Alonso had taken over the No.10 car from Taylor just after the 21-hour mark and was putting pressure on Nasr as the conditions worsened.
The slightest mistake had the potential to be very costly, and after holding Alonso off for a series of laps in green flag conditions, Nasr finally succumbed to the pressure and locked up under braking heading into Turn 1. From his position one second behind Nasr, Alonso watched the identical Cadillac sail wide and into the run-off area before taking the lead that he would hold until the race was stopped.
Had Nasr not made the mistake, he would have likely won the race as a full-course yellow came soon after and normal racing did not resume before the final red flag with one hour and 55 minutes left on the clock. Alonso also impressed earlier in the race when he climbed from seventh place to the lead in his opening stint before putting in some impressive lap times in wet conditions overnight.
"To win this kind of endurance racing at iconic places like Daytona means a lot," Alonso said. "With zero experience and background in endurance before (last year) it's quite a big thing."
The result represents Alonso's first major race victory since leaving F1 at the end of the year and his second 24-hour race victory in the space of a year, following his Le Mans victory last June. Alonso has his sights set on motorsport's triple crown - which requires victories at Le Mans, the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indy 500 - and will race at Indianapolis in May to try to complete the set. However, Daytona has also been a personal goal for Alonso, who made his debut at the race last year in the LMP2 category for United Autosports.
Another former F1 driver, Pastor Maldonado, was part of the winning team in this year's LMP2 category, taking victory alongside teammates Roberto Gonzalez, Sebastian Saavedra and Ryan Cullen.