Fernando Alonso completes his Rookie Orientation Program at Indy (VIDEO)

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Fernando Alonso has completed his Rookie Orientation Program for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, driving the No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti entry at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in his first running. This means he is cleared to participate in the race itself.

It took just 50 laps for Alonso to work through ROP, at a best speed of 219.654 mph (40.9735 seconds) around the 2.5-mile speedway.

The phases of ROP are 10 laps in the 205-210 mph range, then 15 in the 210-215 mph range, then 15 north of 215-plus.

Alonso expressed his first comments to Robin Miller during the IMS/NBC Sports App live stream, hosted by Kevin Lee, Mario Andretti and Johnny Rutherford with Miller on pit lane.

“It was fun! It was a good way to start to build the speed. It was a little bit difficult at the beginning to meet the minimum Now we can put some laps and feel a bit of a the car. Right now the car is driving myself, I’m not driving the car,” Alonso told Miller.

“The laps, with 30 laps, 40 laps in the book, you’re able to fine tune the lines, the upshift and downshifts. At the moment everything looks good. Now we start the real thing.

“I think the feeling of the simulator is quite realistic. The real car is such a unique feeling. It’s not the same in the simulator as the real thing! The real thing, Marco ran it this morning. Running alone is quite OK, we will see in the next weeks.

“It was so far a good experience. Now it starts the real deal.”

Team principal Michael Andretti, who will call Alonso’s race, said Alonso has done well and acclimated to the initial level of downforce.

“It was great. He did perfect. Now we can play a little bit after he looks at data, so he can see what’s on the data compared to how he’s feeling,” Andretti told Miller.

Alonso is set to run again after a quick break but it depends on whether weather will hit the track. Here is the official plan per INDYCAR communications head Curt Cavin:

Interestingly, the 51 laps he completed in this morning session, following Marco Andretti’s shakedown, are more than he has in any Grand Prix this year except for Bahrain (54 laps). At Australia (50 laps), China (33) and Russia (did not start), Alonso did not make as many laps.

Yes, it’s an oval compared to a road course and laps are quicker, but this was by all means a successful first run in the car.

More to follow…

Video highlights from Sunday’s Dakar Rally Stage 8: Bikes, Cars, Quads, Trucks

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Sunday’s Stage 8 of the Dakar Rally brought the race into the final country it will compete in, Argentina.

Monday’s Stage 9 was cancelled after bad weather made course conditions impassible for racing. Stage 10 picks up Tuesday morning. The overall Rally ends Saturday.

Here’s some of Sunday’s key video highlights:

BIKES

Antoine Meo wins Stage 8.

QUADS 

Simon Vitse wins Stage 8.

CARS

Stephane Peterhansel wins Stage 8.

TRUCKS

Dmitry Sotnikov wins Stage 8.