Double world champion, Fernando Alonso has successively done his Rookie Orientation Program for the 101st Indianapolis 500, driving the No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti entry at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in his first running. This means the Spaniard is cleared to take part in the Indy 500 race itself.
The McLaren-Honda ace turned 50 laps in his morning test session, posting a best lap speed of 219.654 mph. It took less than three hours to pass all three phases of the rookie test on his first oval track.
“It was fun, it was a good way to start and reach the speed. A little difficult at the beginning to reach the speeds, but then the next stages it was fine,” Alonso was quoted as saying by AP. “At the moment everything looks good. … Now I think we start the real deal.”
Alonso was programmed to practice another five hours, but rain was expected to cut that session short. After IndyCar driver Marco Andretti set up the No. 29 for Andretti Autosport, Alonso strapped into the bright orange Honda and hit the track and ran several laps, moving gradually past the 200 mph threshold to near 210 mph before heading to the pits.
“It was great. He did perfect. Now we can go play a little bit,” Michael Andretti was quoted as saying by AP. “He’s the real deal. I think he’s going to have a really good month.”
“He’s getting the feel of it,” IndyCar legend Mario Andretti added. “He’s doing exactly what he needs to do. The experience that he has should dominate, but the anxiety is still there.”
“You just need to make sure it stuck for him to get confidence,” Marco Andretti said after exiting the car. “He’ll have to learn by fire. He’s asking the right questions. He’ll be fine. He’s a race car driver. I think he’ll leave today pretty confident. He’s going to be spoiled after today, that’s for sure.”
Speedway president Doug Boles said Alonso’s planned appearance in the race has sent ticket sales trending higher than all but one of the last 20 years.
“It’s been great for the momentum and excitement,” Boles said. “Fans from all over the world … began buying tickets. It’s great for the brand.”