Dennis: 2007 rift with Alonso “ancient history” for McLaren

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McLaren CEO Ron Dennis has insisted that the rift between Fernando Alonso and the team in 2007 is now “ancient history”, calling any idea of a continued spat “nonsense”.

Alonso joined McLaren for the first time for the 2007 season after winning back-to-back titles with Renault, and missed out on a third championship by just a solitary point.

However, in spite of the team’s success on-track, Alonso became embroiled in a rivalry with rookie teammate Lewis Hamilton at McLaren, believing that he deserved number one status at the British team.

McLaren was thrown out of the constructors’ championship and fined $100m for espionage in what was known as the ‘Spygate’ scandal, with Alonso reportedly threatening to blackmail Dennis with evidence regarding the case. Unsurprisingly, he parted company with the team at the end of the year.

However, after five unsuccessful years with Ferrari, Alonso has now returned to McLaren for the 2015 season, but many within the sport believe that the relationship is only poised to end in a similar way to how it did eight years ago.

Speaking to the official Formula 1 website, Dennis insisted that 2007 is simply a distant memory to those involved in the Spygate scandal.

“People tend to talk a lot of nonsense about the McLaren-Alonso relationship,” Dennis said. “Okay, 2007 was a stressful year, even though we won eight races and scored more world championship points than any other team that season.

“But that’s ancient history now. We’ve all moved on – and by ‘we’ I mean McLaren, Ferrari and indeed the FIA.

“And the Fernando we’re working with today, now, is a fantastically motivated and inspirational man. He’s as quick as ever, as competitive as ever, more experienced than ever, more expert than ever, and he combines those traits with an infectious energy and enthusiasm.

“We’ll win again, we’ll dominate again, and we’ll do that together, with Fernando front and central. It’ll be a wonderful culmination to his glittering career, and all at McLaren and all at Honda are utterly dedicated to the task of working with him, with Jenson [Button] and with everyone else, to help him achieve it.”

Towards the end of his time with Ferrari, it was suggested that Alonso may have been looking to use a move to McLaren as a stop-gap before joining the dominant Mercedes team as Lewis Hamilton’s replacement for the 2016 season if the Briton did not sign a new contract.

Dennis has made clear in the past that Alonso has no kind of get-out clause in his contract to allow this to happen, and reiterated his point once again.

“He has a straight three-year contract with us, with no options,” Dennis said. “It’s as simple as that. That’s what we wanted to offer him, and that’s what he wanted to sign. I can’t make it plainer than that, can I?”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III