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Alonso takes aim at Indy 500 after rainy Daytona win

Fernando Alonso, shown at his F1 farewell party, takes aim at the Indianapolis 500 after winning the 24 Hours of Daytona
Fernando Alonso, shown at his F1 farewell party, takes aim at the Indianapolis 500 after winning the 24 Hours of Daytona AFP/File
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Washington (AFP)

Spain's Fernando Alonso is getting ready for another unique challenge at the Indianapolis 500 after adding Daytona to his list of prestigious racing titles.

The two-time Formula One champion was part of the winning effort at the rain-hit 24 Hours of Daytona that concluded Sunday, becoming only the third former F1 champion to capture the endurance race classic after Phil Hill in 1964 and Mario Andretti in 1972.

Alonso retired from F1 after 18 years and having already captured the Monaco Grand Prix and 24 Hours of Le Mans hopes to complete auto racing's Triple Crown with a victory in May on the famed Indy oval.

"This is not part of the Triple Crown, but if I win Indianapolis, this will be Quadruple Crown," Alonso said. "Right now, full focus is on the Indy 500. I'm thinking I'm trying to do something more maybe in different disciplines that are not only circuits.

"But I need to think, I need to plan, I need to make sure that I'm competitive, to have the right people, the right teams, and the right preparations. Whatever adventure is next, I will not do it if I'm not competitive or I don't have a shot for winning.

"The aim is to do something unprecedented in motorsport."

Alonso said there was more than simply a day's effort that made him a champion at Daytona alongside his co-drivers -- Dutchman Renger Van Der Zande, American Jordan Taylor and Japan's Kamui Kobayashi.

"I'm very, very proud of the job that we achieved, but it was not a one-day job, it was a one-month job," Alonso said.

"In December we started preparing for the race...we tried to have a quick integration, Kamui and myself, trying to learn as much as we could from the team and then, on the race itself, it was very, very difficult. Conditions were changing all the time."

- Daytona ranks high for Alonso -

Rain halted the race twice, cars skidding and sliding in wet conditions around the 12-turn, 2.5-mile (4km) road course at Florida's Daytona International Speedway. Alonso made the winning pass two laps before the race was halted after expressing concern over treacherous conditions that even had the pace car nearly spinning out.

"He nearly crashed," Alonso said. "I was following him and he had a massive moment aquaplaning. The safety car was pointing toward the wall at one point."

That helped make Daytona among Alonso's most satisfying triumphs.

"It ranks quite high," Alonso said. "Daytona is one of those venues and speedways that you would like to win eventually one day in your career.

"I've been lucky enough to win grands prix in Monaco and Spa and Suzuka and Malaysia and Silverstone and my home country of Spain. To add Daytona to that list is quite special."

Alonso said in November he would run in the 103rd Indy 500 with McLaren. In 2017, Alonso started fifth and led 27 laps before mechanical trouble left him with a 24th-place showing.

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