Alonso Fails To Qualify At Indy

Fernando Alonso - Indianapolis Motor Speedway. © [Jamie Sheldrick/ Spacesuit Media]

Fernando Alonso – Indianapolis Motor Speedway. © [Jamie Sheldrick/ Spacesuit Media]

by Allan Brewer

A 23-year old unknown from Santa Clara, California bumped two-time World Driving Champion Fernando Alonso from the 2019 Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, ending the Spaniard’s quest for the “Triple Crown of Motor Racing” this year.

Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser eliminated Alonso on the basis of a four-lap qualifying speed of 227.372 mph over the 2.5 mile oval, besting the veteran driver by just 0.019 mph.

Fernando was characteristically frank in his post assessment: “Yeah, I’m disappointed now. Obviously, it would be nice to be in the race next Sunday. We came here to race and to challenge ourselves, and we were not quick enough.”

Prior to attempting to assure a place in the 33-car field his mood was sanguine: “If we make it, we make it,” he said. “If we don’t, we didn’t deserve it.”
“ I want to apologize and thank the fans,” said McLaren Sporting Director Gil de Ferran, “not only here in the U.S. but globally who have been following our progress. I read a lot of nice things and some great messages all over the place.”

After a roundly applauded fifth-place in 2017 in partnership with Andretti Autosport, the McLaren team was confident in its ability to build and set up a competent, fast race car for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. However, it became apparent as early as the team’s first test that things were not going as well as expected.

Rumors circulated that following an initial test of the prototype car at Texas, McLaren officials returned to Woking UK and rebuilt their proprietary chassis from the ground up out of concern it could not make pace in America.

Things continued to sour when the team repeatedly lost test time due to various malfunctions: the first circuit of the Speedway oval in April came to a powerless end amid electrical problems (speculated to be a failed battery). “It is frustrating for everyone,” Fernando said. “We lost time at the beginning, which was not unexpected with a brand new chassis, a brand new car. “

As anyone who has followed Fernando Alonso’s career is aware, he is incredibly upbeat, and confident, casting away his troubles as easily as tossing away pieces of gum wrapper. “The two weeks (leading up to the Indy 500) are going to be amazing,” he said.

As it turns out, they were not.

The team was sidelined after only a handful of laps on Speedway opening day by a faulty alternator. Again, after only a smidgen of what was planned for Wednesday, Fernando lost control of the car in Turn 3, smacked front and rear into the concrete barrier and slid to a halt about halfway through Turn 4.

McLaren worked deep into the night on Wednesday and all day long on Thursday to turn Alonso’s back-up car into a qualifying contender for the May 26th race. But the day was cut short by inclement weather that rolled over the racing complex a precious 90 minutes short of the planned 6PM Eastern close of the track.

The work was complicated by the discovery of engine damage to Alonso’s Chevrolet V-6 turbocharged engine that necessitated replacement.

The woes continued up to and through qualifying when Alonso’s first attempt was compromised by a puncture of the right rear tire that cost him time and speed. Through a total of five qualifications attempts on Saturday and a final shot on Sunday, McLaren could never find the speed to lock up a spot in the 2019 Indianapolis 500.

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