Zak Brown

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Alonso gets seat fit, visits Borg-Warner Trophy in Indy

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Fernando Alonso’s quick first visit to the U.S. before this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix continued Monday with a trip to Indianapolis with his Andretti Autosport team, following the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama in Birmingham, Ala.

After a jam-packed Sunday packed with media commitments and observing from the pits, Alonso went to Andretti’s shop on Zionsville Rd. where he made his seat fit for his upcoming first test on May 3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

This was the only time this could be worked into his schedule before he heads to Sochi to resume his Formula 1 commitments in his day job, lead driver of the team’s McLaren Honda.

Alonso also met the trophy he hopes to win as part of his quest to capture the Triple Crown, the Borg-Warner Trophy.

Andretti Autosport is the defending champion team at Indianapolis with Alexander Rossi. Rossi follows Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Dario Franchitti (2007) and Dan Wheldon (2005) as winners for the team in the ‘500.

“It’s a beautiful trophy that I would be proud to take home if I won the Indianapolis 500. There are so many familiar faces on the trophy from the past and present that represent the greatest race in the world,” Alonso said, via BorgWarner. “Can I please get a full-sized trophy to take home if I win the race? The small ones (Baby Borgs) are nice but a big one would be wonderful!”

As Alonso is a two-time World Champion, he wouldn’t be the first driver to pull off an Indianapolis 500 victory. Others that have done so are listed below:

  • Jim Clark – Formula One World Champion in 1963 and 1965, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1965
  • Graham Hill – Formula One World Champion in 1962 and 1968, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1966
  • Mario Andretti – Formula One World Champion 1978, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1969
  • Emerson Fittipaldi – Formula One World Champion 1972 and 1974, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1989 and 1993
  • Jacques Villeneuve – Formula One World Champion 1997, Indianapolis 500 winner in 1995

NBCSN videos from Alonso’s Sunday at Barber are linked below.

Press Conference

Grid Interview with Townsend Bell

NBCSN Booth

A full day of Fernando: Alonso takes Barber by storm (VIDEO)

Brown and Alonso. Photo: IndyCar
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Fernando Alonso was a busy man today at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, as he prepares for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil and made the rounds of media and promotion in doing so as part of his joint entry into the race thanks to McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport.

The two-time Formula 1 World Champion arrived on pit lane for Sunday’s morning warmup and set up in Ryan Hunter-Reay’s No. 28 DHL Honda pit, where he’d interact with Michael Andretti and the rest of the team.

Alonso had a quick sit-in in Marco Andretti’s No. 27 Honda:

Alonso then made it to the media center for a formal press conference with Andretti, McLaren F1 executive director Zak Brown and Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, the head of INDYCAR’s parent company. Alonso was high on life through most of the press conference and had a few playful jabs at some of his competitors.

Before the race, Alonso signed some autographs for fans, who were pleased he was on site.

Photo: IndyCar
Photo: IndyCar

From there, it was a chance to head to the grid and speak with NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell.

Alonso’s day wasn’t done, as he visited both the NBCSN booth and the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network booth for further interviews. A portion of the NBCSN interview is below.

Alonso will now head to Indianapolis with the team this week for a seat fit and further preparation for his May 3 test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, his first run in the car. He’ll then be off to Sochi, Russia for next weekend’s Russian Grand Prix, which you can see on NBCSN (times here).

Fernando Alonso ready to tackle ‘the spirit of the Indy 500 adventure’

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With smiles, humor, wit and determination, two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso arrived in the Barber Motorsports Park press conference room and promptly delivered his second win of the season – the first coming when he, McLaren F1 executive director Zak Brown, Honda and Andretti Autosport combined to stun the racing world in announcing earlier this month that Alonso would be racing in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Alonso’s odyssey to come over the next month or so since that announcement has a game plan, a travel schedule and plenty of words to describe the experience. He and Brown arrived in Alabama late Saturday, and the two met the rest of the Andretti Autosport team.

On Sunday, Alonso made his maiden appearance on pit road during the warmup session for today’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) in Ryan Hunter-Reay’s pit for his No. 28 DHL Honda.

The press conference this morning then brought the same spirit of determination Alonso has outlined as his quest for even wanting to run the Indianapolis 500 in the first place, as well as a few jokes along the way.

“It’s true! It’s my first time here, and hopefully not the last. I want to come to see more of Alabama and this circuit,” Alonso led off during the press conference.

“This has been an amazing week to 10 days from the announcement. For any racing driver in the world to compete in this race is the main goal, against the best drivers, in some of the fastest, best cars in the world.

“This is the spirit of the Indy 500 adventure. I need to go through different steps in this learning, I need to do it in a short amount of time. But it’s so exciting. I need to thank McLaren, Honda for this opportunity and all the Andretti Autosport team.”

Alonso promptly outlined the schedule he’s going to be undertaking from here. After watching today’s IndyCar race, he’ll go to Andretti Autosport’s Indianapolis shop for a seat fit in preparation for his maiden test on May 3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. From the shop, he’ll be off to Russia for next weekend’s Russian Grand Prix (TV times on NBCSN here), and then back to the U.S. after that.

“From now on, it’ll be an interesting next couple weeks. There’s a couple of trips to Europe and U.S.A. back and forth. Next weekend, we will race in Russia for the Formula 1 Grand Prix, then the test, then the Spanish Grand Prix, then come back for the Indianapolis 500. I will try to learn as quick as I can.”

Alonso said he’s been thinking about this opportunity for several years in advance.

“Let’s say four to five years ago, I started thinking about how to grow up as a driver and become more complete,” he said.

“I didn’t think it was possible. But it makes me very happy to have this first attempt.

“Winning is something really big. I take it more like an experience. I’m very open. If the race was tomorrow, I’m not ready to do it because I know nothing about it. But I will go step-by-step to do some simulator laps. I have to be as good as I can on simulator, qualifying and running alone, then traffic when it comes time.”

Brown confirmed the support team around Alonso is as solid as ever. Michael Andretti will call Alonso’s race as strategist with Andretti technical director Eric Bretzman serving as engineer. Today he added that Alonso will have Honda consultant, 2003 Indianapolis 500 champion, two-time CART champion and closed course world speed record holder Gil de Ferran there as a driver coach to aid Alonso’s development.

Alonso brought some jokes when asked about Formula 1 drivers’ respective takes on his running Indianapolis and skipping the Monaco Grand Prix, where Jenson Button will make a one-race cameo to come out of retirement to deputize.

“We don’t talk much. It’s a different world!” Alonso laughed. “The only thing I know is probably what you guys have read, which is what I’ve read too.

“Some of them are happy and curious to see how competitive we can be. Others aren’t happy with anything in life … except their own performance. It’s a different world.”

About his former sparring partner in F1, Juan Pablo Montoya: “I don’t know if he’ll be at the front!” Alonso said to more laughter.

Alonso said he’ll look forward to the simulator time ahead, and told NBCSN IndyCar analyst Paul Tracy that the simulator he is used to in Formula 1 is incredible.

In terms of the best advice he’s received?

“Enjoy,” Alonso reflected.

“It’s something that this race is so unique, so I’m ready to experience these emotions. That race, that day, everything happens so quickly. You tend to forget what you are doing. I’m ready to enjoy everything I’m doing that day.”

Brown, Andretti and Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, head of INDYCAR’s parent company, also joined Alonso on the dais. Stefan Wilson’s contribution to the effort was once again praised.

The most noteworthy piece of news to come out of this trio was that Miles confirmed he’d be going on a European promotional tour after the Phoenix race (April 29) to spread the word about IndyCar, the Indianapolis 500 and Alonso’s attempt.

“The attention we have seen already is incredible,” Miles said. “I will be In London, Paris, Milan, Barcelona, and we’re going be there while he’s in Indy to tell the IndyCar story.

“I’ve read clippings back from the first race in Indianapolis, and Fernando’s presence will make it even bigger this year.”

Perhaps Brown summed up the announcement best: “This is an outstanding opportunity for the world of motorsports to be able to come to Indianapolis. And I’ve never seen a driver so excited, dedicated and motivated to run in a race.”

More to follow…

Fernando Alonso to test IndyCar for first time May 3 at IMS

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Fernando Alonso will have his first run in the jointly entered McLaren, Honda, Andretti Autosport entry in a one-day test on Wednesday, May 3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, ahead of his debut in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

The two-time Formula 1 World Champion will be there a few days after his next F1 race at the Russian Grand Prix which takes place on April 30. He will make his first visit to the Andretti team this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

The test will take place from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) on the 2.5-mile oval. This will be the first career laps on an oval for him, and as such, why he’s getting an extra day whereas fellow Indianapolis 500 rookies Ed Jones, Jack Harvey and Zach Veach will have the standard rookie orientation program later in May as all three have raced on ovals in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series. Alonso, as a rookie, is required to complete the ROP as well.

Fans can watch testing for free from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. from the Turn 2 viewing mounds, Museum parking lot and South Terrace Grandstands.

In an interview on “Trackside” with NBCSN pit reporter Kevin Lee and INDYCAR communications chief Curt Cavin on 1070 The Fan radio, McLaren executive director Zak Brown said Alonso and IMS had a date set but not yet revealed.

Brown hints at Indy test, other details to come for Alonso, McLaren

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In a wide-ranging interview with “Trackside” on 1070 The Fan radio in Indianapolis, McLaren executive director Zak Brown has hinted at a few more details to come regarding Fernando Alonso’s upcoming arrival to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Brown, speaking to NBCSN pit reporter and show host Kevin Lee (co-hosts the show with INDYCAR communications head Curt Cavin), said a date has been determined for Alonso’s first test day at IMS in the jointly entered McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport entry but they would wait to reveal it themselves to create a big splash on social media.

You can listen to the full interview with Brown here, starting at about the 14:45 mark.

“There is, but we are not yet revealing that,” Brown told Lee. “We are working very closely with INDYCAR how can we expose the fans to Fernando Alonso and showcase fun and unique ways to do that live and digitally. I don’t want to spoil that announcement, because we’ll be revealing it to the fans.”

Brown also revealed a few further details about Alonso’s month of May program itself, including whether McLaren personnel directly will be involved in the entry.

“Andretti Autosport will take the lead. Michael will be calling the race. It will be his team over the wall,” Brown said. “We are sending out a small crew to support.

“We have some areas where some of the technology we’ve developed will be beneficial. From everything to the technology on the car to some of our people.

“We’ve got some people with some great IndyCar experience. We can’t detract or remove any effort towards our Formula 1 (effort). It will be people from the factory that will have relevant experience.”

Brown elaborated on McLaren’s longer-term goals for Indianapolis beyond 2017, and said you can expect to see existing McLaren F1 partners adorning Alonso’s IndyCar this year.

“I would like to see the Indy 500 being part of McLaren’s annual racing efforts when we go racing,” Brown said. “We have to make sure we do it competitively; it has to be commercially viable and fits our brand. We feel IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 offer all those things to McLaren.

“I’d say a full season program in McLaren is not yet under full consideration and would be years away because that would be a tall order.”

Brown also confirmed he’ll be joining Alonso in Birmingham, Ala. this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park, where they’ll join the Andretti Autosport team for the weekend. He said they’ll land on Saturday.