Texas Motor Speedway

F1 superstar Fernando Alonso makes pit stop at TMS, preps for Indy 500, Triple Crown

IndyCar

An athlete of the world.

That’s how Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage described Formula 1 superstar Fernando Alonso.

Alonso made an appearance at TMS on Tuesday afternoon, preparing for his run in the Indianapolis 500 next month.

Alonso, a two-time F-1 champion, and Team McLaren conducted a one-day test at the track, and came away hopeful that it’ll help Alonso on his way to a coveted Indy 500 championship to complete racing’s Triple Crown.

“It was great,” Alonso said during a lunch break. “Obviously, it’s only the first couple of laps with the car and we’re taking care of everything, slowly building the speed. But, yeah, I drove the Indy car at Barber (Motorsports Park) last year but it’s good to be back on the oval with a very specific setup and this car that turns left, self-steering a little bit. Again, some weird feeling for me but trying to get used to it. Also, the speedway is very special.

“There’s a lot of banking on the corner, especially in 3 and 4 so very different than Indianapolis but, hopefully, a good preparation for us.”

The Spainish star is among the biggest names in this year’s Indy 500 field, which is scheduled for May 26. Alonso needs to take the checkered flag to join Graham Hill of Great Britain as the only driver to win motor sports’ “Triple Crown” (Monaco, Le Mans and Indianapolis).

Alonso won the Monaco Grand Prix in 2006 and 2007, and added the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June 2018, his debut in the French sports car endurance race. Alonso drove a Toyota hybrid along with Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima and Switzerland’s Sebastien Buemi.

Now it’s back to the Indy 500. Alonso started fifth and finished 24th in the 2017 Indy 500, leading 27 laps, in his only appearance in IndyCar’s signature event.

“In terms of winning, we understand how difficult it is,” Alonso said. “We respect the race and our competitors a lot. And you need a little bit of luck as well. It has to be your day. Probably the race has to choose you, in a way, to win. We are aware of that.”

Alonso does have three-time Indy 500 and Fort Worth resident Johnny Rutherford on his side. Rutherford, who won two of his three 500s driving for McLaren (1974, 1976), is serving as an ambassador for the team.

Alonso is soaking in whatever advice Rutherford gives him.

“He’s always taking care of us, in terms of safety, that’s first,” Alonso said. “Trying to give me some advice on the bumps into (Turns) 3 and 4, and not getting too close to the wall at the exit of 2 because it seems you are quite far away eventually you find yourself very close when the banking finish. So, yes, these kinds of things are obviously very welcome and to have him on board is always a plus.”

Said Rutherford, referring to Indianapolis Motor Speedway: “We always referred to her as ‘The Old Lady.’ She can throw curves at you like you would not believe. It’s one of those things you just have to be ready for.

“That’s where I hope I can plug in to see things developing or happening. It just depends on how strong they get the car and go out there and do it.”

Time will tell how valuable the TMS experience is for Alonso and his Triple Crown quest. For Gossage and the track, though, it’s always a welcomed sight when motor sports royalty comes to town.

“This is amazing to see a two-time world champion, an athlete of the world, come to Texas Motor Speedway as he prepares for the Indy 500,” Gossage said. “I’m sure that he never thought he’d be running on a high-banked oval track, to see what that’s like, all the g-forces. It’s got to be a different experience for him than he’s ever had before.

“But a racer is a racer is a racer and he’s one of the greats of all time so it probably isn’t fazing him in the least.”

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