The McLaren motorsport team has announced that it will enter the 2019 Indianapolis 500 race with Fernando Alonso, who races for the British constructor in Formula One.
Alonso, the two-time Formula One champion who is set to retire from the series after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on 25th November, last took part in the Indy 500 in 2017, when his Honda engine failed while he led the famous race.
The race, which is held annually at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) – informally known as The Brickyard, is part of the Verizon Indycar Series, the top level of American open-wheel car racing.
Alonso contested the 2017 race under the banner of Andretti Autosport which, while being supported by McLaren, had little direct involvement from the Woking-based team beyond the car’s branding.
For next year’s race, however, McLaren chief executive Zak Brown has confirmed that Alonso’s entry will be supported by a specific McLaren backroom team.
He said: “It’s a whole separate racing team that will be created. We’re a large racing team with lots of resources, and I’m extremely confident - or we would not have entered – that we will give maximum effort to F1 and this Indy 500 effort without one compromising the other.”
He added: “It’s going to be people that aren’t currently on our F1 team. It will be built up from relationships that we have. But yes, it will be a new McLaren entry.”
In October, Brown confirmed that McLaren would not enter the IndyCar Series on a full-time basis, but that the Indy 500 remained of interest to the company.
Prior to Alonso’s appearance in the 2017 edition – the first active Formula One driver to take part since 1984, the team had previously experienced success in the historic race, winning three times in a five-year period during the 1970s. Mark Donohue won in 1972, before Johnny Rutherford claimed victory in the 1974 and 1976 events.
Alonso, who was voted the race’s Rookie of the Year in 2017, will go into the race seeking to become only the second racing driver to achieve the ‘Triple Crown of Motorsport’. Graham Hill is the only man to achieved the feat of victory at Indianapolis, Formula One’s Monaco Grand Prix and the Le Mans 24 Hours, which Alonso won in June.
In a statement made by the Spaniard at the weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix, Alonso said: ‘I’ve made clear for some time my desire to achieve the Triple Crown.
‘I had an incredible experience at Indianapolis in 2017 and I knew in my heart of hearts I had to go back if the opportunity was there.
‘I’m especially glad to be returning with McLaren. This was always my first choice if the team decided to do it, so I’m delighted they’ve decided to go ahead.
‘It’s a tough race and we’ll be up against the best, so it will be a huge challenge. But we’re racers and that’s why we race.’