Scott Atherton, the President of IMSA, says he does not expect this months Rolex 24 at Daytona to get the same kind of boost that the Indianapolis 500 did last May when Fernando Alonso competes in his first endurance race of his career.
Alonso’s appearance with McLaren Honda Andretti at the end of May last year saw the Indy 500 bring a lot of attention to the Verizon IndyCar Series, but Atherton does not expect his appearance with United Autosports alongside Lando Norris and Phil Hanson to have the same kind of draw, although he does expect a significant boost to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener.
“To have an active Formula 1 driver of Alonso’s credentials is nothing short of remarkable,” said Atherton. “His debut at Indy last year could not be overstated in terms of the impact that it had, it created a groundswell of interest in the United States but especially on a global scale.
“We’re not so naive to think that we will have a repeat of that, but it will be significant.”
Atherton believes Alonso will be able to show just how good he is in unusual conditions at Daytona, with the Spaniard having never previously competed at night, nor in a multi-class category, with his Daytona appearance set to see him deal with slower GT cars.
“With what this race represents compared to the [Indy] 500, the unique aspect of him now competing in a multi-class environment over the course of a 24-hour race with all kinds of variables will be new and foreign to him,” said Atherton.
“We all saw a remarkable embrace of his ability to compete at the highest level in the 500. I think everybody is confident he will do the same, albeit with a lot of variables that are outside of his control, in this space.”