Indy 500 ROP begins today, and a chance to drive the normal way at IMS

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Sage Karam’s only 19 and not even a high school graduate yet, but he’s already summed up the magnitude of what the official Rookie Orientation Program for the Indianapolis 500 is like in one tweet:

Karam, along with Mikhail Aleshin, Martin Plowman and Jack Hawksworth are the true rookies who will be going through that process today on the IMS 2.5-mile oval.

Jacques Villeneuve, the 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner and Kurt Busch, who is an Indy 500 rookie but a definite “rookie in name only,” completed their round of testing last week. Busch is still scheduled to test today.

Although there was the round of road course testing last week, ROP in May is something of an official kickoff to the month of May.

There has been talk of a couple other potential Indianapolis 500 rookies making their debut this year. Dale Coyne’s Carlos Huertas is expected to race the Grand Prix of Indianapolis this weekend, but has not been confirmed for the ‘500.

Meanwhile Stefan Wilson and James Davison are known to be pursuing options to make their ‘500 dreams a reality.

But for those three, without confirmed deals today, they’ll miss this official ROP and would need to complete the process on another date.

That adds an extra layer of intrigue.

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.