IndyCar notes: Filippi closing on deal; Andretti engineering shift

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Many IndyCar folks have been here on the ground in Austin at Circuit of the Americas this weekend. To wit, we’ve already touched on Simona de Silvestro visiting with Sauber for a photo op, the series president of competition and operations Derrick Walker’s possible series changes, and circuit ambassador and racing legend Mario Andretti’s opinions on IndyCar’s 2014 schedule and Heikki Kovalainen’s settling into Lotus.

But, there’s even more bits and pieces that are emerging:

  • Luca Filippi, who starred in his cameo appearances for Bryan Herta Autosport/Barracuda Racing this year, is close to a full-time deal with the team for 2014 per multiple sources. The Italian made an incredible and indelible impression on the team at Mid-Ohio, Baltimore and Houston. He’s here this weekend with TV work with English broadcaster Sky Sports.
  • Michael Andretti joins his father Mario on the premises. The middle Andretti confirmed a RACER report that Craig Hampson will move into a team R&D role, with Nathan O’Rourke moving over from Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing to become James Hinchcliffe’s engineer. Hinchcliffe, who was scheduled to test Monday in Sebring, will not test now and that leaves just Ryan Hunter-Reay and Carlos Munoz to test.
  • Charlie Kimball was also here today, in the midst of a whirlwind offseason, as a guest of the Mercedes F1 Team. Kimball said any rumblings about who could enter the Chip Ganassi Racing fold to replace the retired Dario Franchitti was “above his pay grade.”

Alonso enjoys maiden Toyota LMP1 test, ends as second-fastest rookie

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Fernando Alonso took his first step towards a possible entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2018 by testing an LMP1 car for the first time with Toyota in Bahrain on Sunday.

Two-time Formula 1 world champion Alonso has made no secret of his desire to race at Le Mans, having signed a deal to race in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January as preparation for a possible entry at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Toyota confirmed after Saturday’s FIA World Endurance Championship finale in Bahrain that Alonso would be testing its TS050 Hybrid LMP1 car in the traditional rookie test on Sunday.

Alonso was given the car for the bulk of the five-hour test day following an initial shakedown by Sebastien Buemi, completing 113 laps in total – more than any other driver – and posting a best lap time of 1:43.013.

“It was a great day,” Alonso said. “Testing an LMP1 car is always a nice thing for any racing driver because these cars are amazing to drive. They are very consistent throughout a stint which is a positive thing.

“I have wanted to test a car like this for a long time now and today I could achieve that, so I am happy.”

However, Alonso did not finish as the fastest rookie, with that honor instead going to Pietro Fittipaldi, who was the final driver to drive the Porsche 919 Hybrid ahead of the closure of the German marque’s LMP1 program.

Alonso is now set to head back to Europe before a test in United Autosports’ LMP2 car on Tuesday as part of his Daytona preparation, before then returning to the Middle East for the F1 season finale in Abu Dhabi next weekend.