McLaren works IndyCar operation ‘possible’ in the future

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Following Wednesday’s announcement that Fernando Alonso will race in the 101st Indianapolis 500, McLaren shareholder Mansour Ojjeh has said it is “possible” the British marque could establish a full-works operation in the Verizon IndyCar Series in the future.

Alonso will miss the Formula 1 race in Monaco on May 28 to line up on the grid for the Indy 500, as McLaren returns to Indianapolis Motor Speedway after 38 years away with an entry supported by Honda and Andretti Autosport.

McLaren has history in the ‘500, winning the race with Johnny Rutherford in 1974 and 1976. Alonso will race in the same papaya color this year that Rutherford took to Victory Lane in each of those years, and has also returned to McLaren’s F1 car for 2017.

In a statement issued following the announcement, Ojjeh spoke about McLaren’s affinity for the ‘500 and his delight in taking the marque back to the Brickyard.

“Even though I’ve been a major shareholder and director of McLaren for more than 30 years, I arrived after our first IndyCar era had come to an end,” Ojjeh said.

“Nonetheless, I’ve attended the Indy 500, and I came away hugely impressed by the scope and scale of this enormous and well-organized event, and the sheer enthusiasm of the hundreds of thousands of fans in attendance.

“So, more than 30 years later, I’m pleased and proud that we’re about to embark on a new IndyCar era for McLaren, this time with Andretti Autosport and Honda.”

While McLaren’s entry to the ‘500 is set to be its sole appearance in the Verizon IndyCar Series for the time being, Ojjeh admitted that futher attempts at the race and even a full works operation could be considered in the future.

“The Indy 500 is the only IndyCar race we’ll be entering this year, but we may possibly repeat that in years to come and it’s just possible that we may even run a full-works McLaren IndyCar operation at some point in the future. We’ll see,” he said.

“Equally, we may potentially enter the Le Mans 24 Hours again some time – we won it outright in 1995 with our iconic McLaren F1 GTR – but to be clear we have absolutely no definite plans to do so at this stage.”

A return to Le Mans would be of particular interest to Alonso, whose entry to the ‘500 acts as the next stage in his bid to become just the second man to win the Triple Crown of Motorsport (Monaco GP, Indy 500, Le Mans).

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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