Britain’s Lando Norris would consider another endurance sportscar outing after making a big impression on his Rolex 24 At Daytona début this weekend (27-28 Jan) – but not at the expense of fulfilling his goal of reaching Formula One. McLaren F1’s 18-year-old official test and reserve driver along with former double F1 World Champion and McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso plus Phil Hanson finished an unrepresentative 13th in class in the gruelling twice-around-the clock marathon – having led at times and consistently been inside the top-five overall.
The Norris/Alonso/Hanson Ligier completed 716-laps of the 3.56-mile, 12-turn Daytona International Speedway having been delayed by a puncture and then a brake issue which possibly robbed Norris of a podium result. The reigning FIA Formula 3 European Champion who competes in the two-day Race of Champions in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at Riyadh’s King Fahad International Stadium from next Friday (2-3 Feb), spent over seven hours behind the wheel of the United Autosports Ligier JS P217 in four separate stints that included night driving for the first time in his career. He was in scintillating form in both wet and dry track conditions and hugely impressed the sportscar community. To underline his competitiveness, he set his car’s fastest lap of the race this morning. Norris, one of the youngest drivers in the 50-car, 180-driver field, was having his first race in America, first sportscar-prototype race, first 24 hour race, first race at Daytona and first race staged on a track that included steep banking. His first stint behind the wheel was in darkness approaching 7pm yesterday evening, the efforts of Alonso and Hanson having taken the Ligier inside the top-eight. Lando was immediately on the pace, consistently the fastest car on-track, and had made up two places with five-hours gone. Norris then excelled on a treacherously wet track and actually led prior to pitting approaching the six-hour mark. Unfortunately, just after 10pm last night, the #23 Ligier suffered a right, rear puncture, then three-hours later, a brake problem which resulted in a 40mins pit-stop when placed sixth. Another 10mins was lost this morning due to a throttle sensor issue while the team decided to “park” the Ligier for the last hour or so as to not put further wear and tear on the car due to the fact that no positions could be gained. Norris ultimately took the chequered flag for the #23 car crew.
Lando Norris (GB): Born: Bristol, England. Aged 18.
“I’ve enjoyed this event a lot and if I had the opportunity to do Le Mans or any of the other big endurance sportscar races around the world, I would do so – but not yet, F2 and ultimately F1 is my goal. Every time I went out on track I had a lot of fun – that was the whole idea of doing it. It’s more of a team game from what I’m used to – you want to do good for everyone. The team worked really hard since the Roar to improve the car. We struggled because it seems the car and this track don’t get along. But we all kept pushing and our race pace was pretty impressive. We were sometimes the fastest car on-track but mainly in the top-five. We could have possibly won. Now I go from one fun event to another and the RoC. The fact that we’ll be driving various cars and up against some great drivers – like Daytona it’ll just be different from what I’m used to and a great experience.”