Can Helio finally turn dream of 4th Indy 500 win into reality?

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The most hallowed club in the realm of the Indianapolis 500 is made up of three men: A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr., and Rick Mears, who have all earned four victories each in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

For a time, it looked like a fourth man, Helio Castroneves, was seemingly on his way to joining that club. But over the last four years, which has seen the competition only get tougher, the Brazilian’s Indy magic has ebbed with finishes of ninth, 17th, 10th, and sixth.

However, another opportunity awaits him today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he always senses the call of history.

“Every time I go here, it brings me great memories,” the Team Penske driver said Thursday. “But we can’t live in the past. We’ve got to look ahead and we’re doing everything we can to accomplish that. I feel very confident.”

For this year’s ‘500,’ Castroneves is paying tribute to Mears, who now serves as Team Penske’s driver coach, by carrying a special livery that nods to Mears’ second ‘500’ win for Penske back in 1984.

With that in mind, it would seem fitting if Castroneves chalked up Indy win No. 4 today. But in order to finally break through for that incredible milestone, Castroneves and his Shell/Pennzoil crew will have to keep one step ahead of a tight field.

To him, there are no also-rans in this year’s 33-car lineup, which is also the fastest in ‘500’ history.

“I think all the teams and drivers have stepped up their game and that’s why [everyone’s] so close to each other; it’s a combination of a lot of things,” he said.

And as such, it will be the little things that likely prove giant once again.

“I thought last year, there were a lot of drivers that had a chance to win and I don’t think that’s different this year,” he said. “Details will make the difference, whether it’s a pit stop, if it’s strategy or things like that.

“Those are the things that will give you an opportunity to win this race.”

Castroneves also noted the importance of being able to keep up at the front of the pack throughout the day and making the right decisions in regards to timing passes out of the draft.

“Normally, in the past, the time to go was the last pit stop but here, the way the things are going, if you’re not there in the Top 5 – especially in the beginning, because it’s so difficult to pass,” he said.

“Everybody seems to be able to have a very good car in the draft. You’ve got to plan [passes] well.”

But if all goes right for Castroneves and he finally earns his fourth ‘500’ title, he’ll no longer have to dream about what it would mean.

“In my dreams, it’s meant the world,” he said. “Just thinking about it, joining a club with only three guys – I hope I can answer that question after the race.”

McLaren unveils 2018 F1 car, the MCL33

Photo: Getty Images
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McLaren F1 Team became the latest to launch their 2018 challenger on Friday, taking the covers off their new MCL33 chassis early on Friday morning.

McLaren endured a difficult 2017 season of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, with their partnership with Honda eventually dissolving after a troublesome power unit saw them plagued by unreliability and low power.

A switch to Renault power units is expected to see them get an uptick in form, and the MCL33 chassis itself is actually an evolution on last year’s MCL32. Still, the team highlighted areas to improve upon, and aims for a return to prominence in 2018.

“The McLaren team was created by a brave pioneer, and has had bravery at its core ever since. Whether it’s been with brave drivers, brave leaders or brave fortune, this team has always fought back. And we definitely view 2018 as the year when McLaren will move closer to the front, fighting teams and drivers as we improve our fortunes,” said Zak Brown, executive director of McLaren Technology Group.

Brown also highlighted the car’s new papaya orange livery, a throwback to some of the most popular color schemes that have adorned McLaren entrants in a variety of disciplines. Brown indicated that this came about from requests of fans who wanted to see such a livery return to the McLaren marque.

“Our return to a papaya orange livery for this year wasn’t simply an emotional decision; it demonstrates that we are listening to our fans, building deeper engagement with them and the Formula 1 community as a whole. We want McLaren to earn respect on and off the track, and this felt like a good starting point. We want to show everyone what makes this team special, whether that’s our fans or our partners – there’s room for more on our journey.”

The team’s racing director Eric Boullier expressed optimism about the team’s potential for 2018, but also acknowledged the season will be sure to see its fair share of challenges.

“I think the whole team feels proud of this car,” he asserted. “The design, engineering and aerodynamic departments have done an incredible job delivering a new car with a new power unit in an extremely short timeframe. We never took the easy route or looked to shortcut a process or a solution; and the result is a car that is neat and well-resolved.

“That said, we are under no illusions that it will be difficult to splinter the hegemony at the front; and that the midfield will be full of well-funded, experienced outfits with plenty to prove. We are humble about the challenge ahead, but feel we’ve prepared well, have a solid package that we can build upon and exploit as the season progresses, and have two excellent drivers who will make the difference in races.”

The MCL33 took to the track on Friday for filming at a test track in Spain, and will be run in anger for the first time when testing begins next week at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

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