Fernando Alonso astounded anyone who was witnessing a truly exceptional three and a half hour stint of him in the cockpit of the #10 Minolta Cadillac during the Rolex 24 at Daytona today.
In treacherous conditions that punished some of the best drivers in the field he was simply superb, delivering a mega-performance that will not be forgotten, arguably one of the best in his illustrious career packed with great drives.
The victory is a ‘Triple Crown’ of sorts, with his victories at Le Mans and Monaco coupled to this feat at the Daytona 24 Hours, where he led the charge for his team with faultless and blistering fast stints in all conditions, rising to another level when the rain cascaded down to further augment his reputation as the best race driver on the planet.
His legend grew another notch or two today. However, the real Triple Crown of Motorsport still eludes him and he has the opportunity to win the Indy 500, with McLaren in May and match Graham Hill, so far the only driver to manage the rare accolade.
Should the Spaniard triumph at the Brickyard, he will then have accomplished the unique ‘Quadruple Crown of Motorsport’ with Daytona added to the triple.
If anyone ever doubted how immense Alonso is in a race car, the stint in the darkness of early morning in pouring rain will forever put those to bed. He was simply on another level in horrible conditions, weaving through crazy traffic with almost zero visibility, driving on a level seldom seen in our sport.
Prior to the rain coming down, Alonso had powered past three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves to take the lead and then extended the gap by nearly 15 seconds during a lengthy opening stint to his year.
After his first impressive spell, he returned to the track early on Sunday morning for another sensational showing which sealed a well-deserved victory for the #10 car and its crew.
Here is the timeline of Alonso’s jaw-dropping second stint in the #10 car:
4:48 New change of leader! Nasr goes long due to the rain and Rossi takes advantage of the situation to place the Acura #7 in the lead of the race. Jordan Taylor remains in third position.
4:54 Alonso in the #10! The Spaniard starts his second stint of these 24 Hours of Daytona in fourth place.
4:58 It’s raining hard now! The teams change to the rain tires and Fernando Alonso who had dry tires must stop again for rain tires again.
5:00 The Cadillac #10 that loses almost two minutes to the race leader when changing tyres.
5:02 Felipe Nasr benefits from the conditions as the only one to take on rain tires during his stop. Fernando emerges in fourth and begins hunting down the leaders.
5:13 Alonso overtakes Cameron and moves up to third place. The Spaniard is in the zone and sets a scorching pace easily two seconds a lap faster than his rivals in pursuit, negotiating traffic at the same time.
5:15 Alonso overtakes Ricky Taylor for second place and has Felipe Nasr now in his sights. Impressive two laps by Alonso who at one point he was four seconds per lap faster than his rivals.
5:24 Full Course Yellow. Alonso leads! The cars ahead pit and the Spaniard has benefited from the situation.
5:33 Action resumes. Alonso leads while Cameron overtakes Curran for second place. Nine hours remain.
5:40 In four laps Alonso extends his lead to 12 seconds over the Acura #6, turning the race on its head in the process.
5:48 The lead is now 20 seconds. Alonso is about two seconds per lap faster than his rivals. The rain has suited the man in the #10 Cadillac.
6:08 Full Course Yellow deployed! Alonso a whopping 50 seconds ahead of the next best thanks to the amazing stint. Agony as safety car deployed after the #4 Corvette hit a wall and the field concertinaed to erase the advantage, but we had just witnessed greatness.
7:41 Full Course Yellow continues uninterrupted. So far Fernando has completed two stints, the second one nearly three hours long, albeit a big chunk behind the safety car. It’s dawn.
7:47 Red Flag and field files into the pitlane. A lot of water on the track, big puddles, very dangerous and pointless.
7:58 Red Flag continues. If the race ends now, it would be victory for Alonso.
9:59 Drivers ready for five and a half hours of racing.
9:00 We’re rolling.
9:09 Track is green!
9:14 Accident between several cars prompts another Full Course Yellow! There are many car wrecks on the track and it will take a while to clear them.
9:26 Pitstop for the #10 Cadillac, Alonso jumps out with Taylor taking over. Another supreme stint by the Spaniard one which will be talked about for ages.
With the race poised on a knife’s edge, Jordan Taylor did the next shift for two and a half hours, before handing it over in third place to the Spaniard.
This is how victory unfolded for Alonso and his team thereafter:
12:00 Wayne Taylor Racing confirm Alonso will do the final stint in the #10 Caddy.
12:01 Green flag! Nasr in front, ahead of Alonso and Rossi, the trio separated by 1.5 seconds. We have a proper threeway battle on our hands.
12:04 Full Course Yellow! Toni Vilander in the Ferrari stops at T7. It is the 17th full course yellow.
12:14 Green flag! The race resumes but there’s a lot of water. Times plummet.
12:21 Alonso still in P2 stalking Nasr, always in his mirrors but not too close to the plume of spray trailing behind the #31 Caddy. Very low visibility.
12:25 All drivers struggling as rain continues and the track becomes increasingly treacherous.
12:30 Nasr under pressure out brakes himself into Turn 1, Alonso is through into the lead!
12:33 Alonso leads by 12 seconds from Nasr who recovered and managed to hang on to second place ahead of Alexander Rossi.
12:54 Red Flag! Race stopped again. Alonso, Kobayashi, Van der Zende and Taylor lead with an hour and 40 minutes remaining, having completed 593 laps with 32 pitstops. The cars park nose to tail in the pitlane behind the #10 Minolta Cadillac. And we wait…
14.21 Chequered Flag! 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona winners are Fernando Alonso, Kamui Kobayashi, Renger van der Zendele and Jordan Taylor driving the #10 Minolta Cadillac DPI run by Wayne Taylor Racing.
Rain always adds another dimension to motor races, to stand out in such conditions takes something special and we were treated to that this weekend, Fernando Alonso at his very best delivering a performance for the ages.