Formula One team McLaren are set to take the usual step of letting one of their drivers compete on a different motor racing circuit. The move is meant to give Fernando Alonso a shot at realizing a career ambition.
McLaren announced in a statement posted on their website on Wednesday that Fernando Alonso, their two-time former F1 drivers' champion, would miss next month's Monaco Grand Prix in order to race in the 101st Indianapolis 500, which takes place on the same day.
The statement said that Alonso would drive the one car that the team plans to enter in the American race, a Honda-powered Andretti Autosport car that is to be rebranded as McLaren. This means that the race will mark team's return to the Indianapolis 500 for the first time in almost 40 years.
Alonso has said that he was keen to compete in arguably the biggest motor race in the United States, as he is seeking to fulfill a lifelong dream of completing a rare career "triple crown" by winning the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans of the FIA World endurance Championship.
"It's a tough challenge" said the 35-year-old Spaniard, who has twice won in Monaco but to date has never entered the Le Mans race.
"I've never raced an IndyCar car before, and neither have I ever driven on a super-speedway, but I'm confident that I'll get to grips with it fast," Alonso said.
"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, practicing our McLaren-Honda-Andretti car at Indy from May 15th onwards, hopefully clocking up a large number of miles every day, and I know how good the Andretti Autosport guys are," he said.
Like the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500 takes place on May 28.
The only driver to secure the triple crown was the late Graham Hill, the British driver, who was active from the late 1950's to the mid-1970s and like Alonso, twice won the F1 drivers' title.
pfd/dv (AFP, Reuters, AP)