Kurt Busch, like the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, was in Texas a couple weeks ago for the NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. The 2004 series champion made a return engagement to the state for an entirely different reason.
As part of a media preview day ahead of the Austin 400, to be held May 17-19 and the first race for the Australian V8 Supercars in America to be held at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, Busch and former V8 Supercar champion James Courtney swapped cars.
The V8s are the top racing series in Australia – essentially the Australian equivalent of NASCAR in terms of popularity and manufacturer interest. Fans have traditionally supported just one marque, and until this year the only options were Holden and Ford before two new entries from Mercedes-Benz and Nissan.
The only similarities between the Chevrolet SS NASCAR and the Holden Commodore V8 Supercar on display in Austin comes from their road-going versions – the same car is sold in both markets in respective left and right hand drive versions.
“Sitting on the right side, shifting a bunch of gears with my left arm, you’re not in your comfort zone and it’s hard to understand what task of the car is next until you start checking things off your list that you learn the racetrack as well,” said Busch of the V8. “So there were quite a few things going on. Information overload, to say the least.”
Courtney’s take on the NASCAR: “The car was bigger and heavier. It has so much power. It’s really quite an experience. It was also quite cool to see blow past the V8 car on the straight. It was really good. I’m forever grateful that the team gave me this opportunity.”
Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports
Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.
The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.
“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.
Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”
Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.
“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.
Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.