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Fernando Alonso Set To Drive In Indy 500

by Allan Brewer

If Formula 1 is the king of racing, then we are about to be visited by a crown prince of the realm. Former two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso (2005, 2006) announced today that he will attempt to qualify and compete in the 2017 Indianapolis 500 rather than drive in the annual Grand Prix of Monaco on May 28th.

Although the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has played host to several F1 champions over the years (the most recent being Michael Schumacher in 2008) it has been a long time since one actually competed in America’s greatest race on Memorial Day. The last was Nigel Mansell, who came to the Speedway as the F1 champion in 1993 and thrilled fans with his dash and daring over the month of May.

Alonso will drive for Andretti Autosport, which has won four Indianapolis 500s, including last year’s dramatic last-lap victory by Alexander Rossi. No doubt the 36-year old Spaniard and McLaren/Honda jockey will attract even more attention this year as organizers try to outdo themselves from last year’s spectacular one-hundredth running of the race.

“I’m immensely excited that I’ll be racing in this year’s Indy 500 with McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport,” Alonso said. “The Indy 500 is one of the most famous races on the global motorsport calendar, rivaled only by the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Monaco Grand Prix.”

“The entire INDYCAR community – competitors, fans, media, everyone – is delighted and excited at the prospect of a driver as brilliant as Fernando making his debut in our series,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Verizon IndyCar Series. “Even better, he’ll be making that debut in the greatest race of our year, the world-famous Indy 500.”

Indianapolis is no stranger to Alonso’s Formula 1 teammates: founder Bruce McLaren first competed here in 1970, and two years later the marque carried Mark Donohue to the first of three McLaren victories at IMS. Johnny Rutherford won the other two, in 1974 and 1976.

Zak Brown, the executive director of McLaren Technology Group, called Alonso “the best racing driver in the world” in his remarks about the team’s participation in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“Could Fernando win this year’s Indy 500? Well, I wouldn’t be so silly as to make any such rash prediction, but I expect him to be in the mix,” Brown said. “Put it this way: the team he’ll be racing for won the race last year, using the same Honda engine, and he’s the best racing driver in the world.”

Alonso’s car will carry the same papaya orange McLaren livery it sported by the team in Formula 1 competition; however, the familiar colors will be the only thing familiar about the contest. Alonso has never raced an Indycar before, or even tested on an oval high-speedway raceway.

“I’m confident that I’ll get to grips with it fast,” Alonso said. “I’ve watched a lot of Indy car action on TV and online, and it’s clear that great precision is required to race in close proximity with other cars on the far side of 220 mph. I realize I’ll be on a steep learning curve, but I’ll be flying to Indianapolis from Barcelona immediately after the Spanish Grand Prix (May 14), practicing our McLaren/Andretti car at Indy from May 15 onwards, hopefully clocking up a large number of miles every day.”

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Allan Brewer
Allan Brewer covers IndyCar and other racing series for RacingNation.com. Allan is a fixture at the race track, armed with keyboard and camera, eager to take you inside open-wheel sport where the news is being made. He comes to RacingNation.com with multiple professional awards from the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association (AWWRBA). He began his motorsports writing career at FastMachines.com; and solely published IndyProRacer.com and A1GP.com, two award-winning websites for open-wheel racing's junior leagues, prior to becoming IndyCar correspondent at Motorsport.com. He has also covered Formula 1, NASCAR, Formula E, the Indy Lights Series and its predecessor Indy Pro Series, NHRA events and major auto shows. His major interest outside of competition is automotive technology and its application to the cars we drive every day on the public highways.
Allan Brewer

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