Formula 1 star Fernando Alonso is gearing up for his first race week of 2018 with his much-anticipated sports car debut in the Rolex 24 at Daytona on Saturday.

Two-time F1 world champion Alonso announced late last year he would be entering the Rolex 24, the curtain-raiser for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, with United Autosports.

The entry comes as preparation for an expected debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June with Toyota, with Alonso enjoying his first laps at Daytona International Speedway at the 'Roar' test earlier this month.

Alonso will compete in the #23 United Autosports Ligier JS P217 car alongside McLaren F1 youngster Lando Norris and rising sports car racer Phil Hanson.

The trio will split duties across the course of the race weekend, starting on Thursday with practice and qualifying.

Alonso will then enjoy one final practice session on Friday before the start of the Rolex 24 at Daytona at 2:40pm ET (7:40pm GMT) on Saturday. The race will then run for 24 hours, finishing at the same time on Sunday.

Alonso is not the only F1 figure to feature at Daytona, with Wiliams driver Lance Stroll also set to appear in the race with Jackie Chan DCR, going up against his grand prix rival in the Prototype class.

American fans spurring Alonso on

Daytona marks Alonso's third race in the United States in the space of 10 months following his shock debut to the Indianapolis 500 last May and his regular appearance in the United States Grand Prix.

The Spaniard has developed an affinity for the American fans, who came out in droves to see him even for the test earlier this month.

"They were great, I had a very nice welcome," Alonso said. "A lot of IndyCar fans as well bringing the IndyCar replica to sign and a lot of #29 shirts and things like that. That was good to experience once more.

"So I’m really looking forward to the race because that will be even more close access to all the fans and the garages and everything. That spirit and that atmosphere that it was like in Indianapolis is the same here. That’s always a positive."

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I am wishing good luck in the race for Alonso, as well as the team is is running with. It's good to see a current F1 driver doing other racing series on their off weeks and kind of brings back some of my rememberences of some of the legends doing so, such as Jim Clark, Gurney, Brabham, Surtees, Andretti and others of past generations.