If all goes according to plan, Fernando Alonso could have completed his quest for motorsport's unofficial Triple Crown by May of 2019.
This week Alonso started his preparations for his debut at the Daytona 24 Hours sports car race. His appearance at the event, which takes place on January 27-28, is seen as a test of endurance racing ahead of what could be a maiden appearance at the Le Mans 24 Hours later this year with Toyota, whose LMP1 car he tested in November last year.
Le Mans forms part of the Triple Crown Alonso has set his sights on winning, along with the Indy 500 -- which he famously contested last year -- and the Monaco Grand Prix, where he was victorious in 2006 and 2007. This year it does not clash with an F1 race, meaning Alonso could take part in the event without it overlapping with his McLaren commitments as Indianapolis did last year, forcing him to skip the race at Monte Carlo.
After his first day in the United Autosports car, the two-time F1 world champion made it clear he is using the Daytona event to shape his decision on what to do next.
"Doing this race is some kind of first step in endurance championship, how these races are and how much I enjoy these races," he said after his preliminary laps in the United Autosports car. "Hopefully, it's a positive answer.
"After the Daytona 24 Hours, I will have a better understanding of these championships and the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Triple Crown is another target. So if I can fit in the Le Mans 24 Hours this year that I'm not doing the Indy 500, that will be great and hopefully the following year the Indy 500 can be in the plan again."
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) January 5, 2018
Alonso hopes the Daytona race can help him improve the race craft he needs for an endurance event.
"It's more or less the same goal as Indianapolis -- first of all, try to learn different driving techniques, try to learn from the specialists of endurance races, try to be a better driver when the 24 hours finishes. It's the first time for me in an endurance race, first time in a prototype car, first time driving at night, first time driving with GT [cars] around so many new things that will come step by step.
"That's quite a big challenge but I'm ready to enjoy first of all and, as happened at Indianapolis, if you feel the opportunity, if you feel competitive, you go for it."