Indianapolis, May 27 (IANS) Spanish two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso will look to make history again when he competes as a rookie at Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, a challenge that has recharged the competitive batteries of one of auto racing’s greatest drivers.
Alonso will start fifth on the grid at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after an impressive showing in last weekend’s time trials, when the McLaren-Andretti Honda driver posted a four-lap average of 231.300 mph in the so-called Fast Nine Shootout, reports Efe.
Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon of New Zealand, winner of the 2008 edition, will start in pole position, while Americans Ed Carpenter (Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet) and defending champion Alexander Rossi (Andretti Herta Autosport-Honda) will join him on the front row.
Alonso, who will try to become the second straight rookie champion, will be joined on the second row by Japanese Andretti Autosport-Honda driver Takuma Sato and American J.R. Hildebrand, who competes for Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet.
Alonso, who will race in a Honda with the same papaya orange colour scheme that Johnny Rutherford used in Indy 500 victories for McLaren in 1974 and 1976, stunned the auto racing world when he announced last month that he would compete in that IndyCar Series event instead of the Monaco Grand Prix, the most prestigious race on the F1 calendar.
His participation in Indy 500 marks the first time McLaren will compete in that iconic race since the late 1970s and is part of the driver’s larger plan to try to win the so-called “triple crown” of motorsport (the Monaco Grand Prix, which he won in 2006 and 2007, the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Only one auto racer in history — the late Graham Hill of Britain in the 1960s — has ever won all three.
Alonso, who began training on May 15, had never before piloted an Indy car nor driven on a super-speedway, but he has made a relatively seamless transition.
The Indy challenge has also revved up the competitive juices of a driver whose McLaren Honda has badly underperformed thus far in the 2017 F1 season.
More than 300,000 people are expected be in attendance at the speedway for Sunday’s race, including the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence.