Fernando Alonso ready to 'go out of comfort zone' at Daytona 24 Hours

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Fernando Alonso will drive his first laps at the Daytona International Speedway this week as he steps up preparations for the 2018 Daytona 24 Hours later this month.

Alonso is set to contest the race, which takes place on January 27-28, with McLaren Formula One boss Zak Brown's United Autosports team, and the Spaniard will get his first taste of the American circuit behind the wheel of the United Autosports Ligier JSP217 in this weekend's 'ROAR before the 24' official test which begins on Friday.

The race, held annually at the Daytona International Speedway, combines portions of the famous oval used in NASCAR and the infield road course. It will mark Alonso's debut in sports car racing, and will be his second appearance at an iconic American race in less than a year, following his participation in the 2017 Indy 500.

"It's a true pleasure to go back racing in the States, in front of the US fans," Alonso said. "In less than a year I will have competed in two legendary races, which makes me very proud.

"I have always wanted to challenge myself in other categories of motorsport, as this is what you need to become a better driver. Going out of my comfort zone by taking part in such an iconic race as the Daytona 24 Hours is just amazing."

While Alonso has already tested the LMP2 Ligier at Aragon in November last year, this week's test will be the first time the two-time F1 world champion has shared a car with team-mates in his racing career.

Alonso will split driving duties with McLaren reserve driver Lando Norris and Phil Hanson, while Williams reserve Paul di Resta -- who has been linked with the F1 team's vacant 2018 seat -- will team up with ex-F1 driver Bruno Senna in the other United Autosports entry.

"At the test we had in Spain in November, everyone made me feel extremely welcome and part of the family and I'm happy to be spending more time with the team and my team-mates in a few days, at the ROAR.

"I just cannot wait to jump in the car again and drive on the famous oval. In the last couple of months I have been spending time watching several Daytona 24 Hours, which made me even keener to go out there and try myself. It's going to be fun!"

Another active F1 driver to take part in the race will be Lance Stroll, with the 19-year-old Canadian forming part of Jackie Chan DC's line-up ahead of his sophomore F1 season with Williams.