McLaren seeks big improvements in Barcelona after challenging tests, progression in first four races

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This is an important weekend for McLaren at the Spanish Grand Prix, as the team looks for its first points finish of the year with a new livery and new car updates.

The team had a trying test at the Circuit de Catalunya this winter; Fernando Alonso had his accident, and the concussion sustained forced him out of action for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

“We’re certainly going into the beginning of the European leg of the season with a positive frame of mind,” Eric Boullier, McLaren Honda racing director, said in a release. “Of course, we can never be satisfied with our results until we’re fighting for regular victories. However, I’m very pleased with our progress and the efforts of the entire team – both within McLaren and Honda – and we go to Spain hopeful that we can make further progress there.

“During the three-week break between Bahrain and Spain, we’ve been working very productively on every front to bring improvements to the car. We know that one fix or upgrade won’t provide a significant upturn in performance, so we’re united in our continued efforts to bring further gains to both chassis and power unit, in terms of both reliability and outright performance, step by step.”

Honda R&D’s chief officer of motorsport, Yasuhisa Arai, added:

“The short break before the Spanish GP has been good for Honda, to calmly reflect on what has happened in the first four races, to analyze what we have done well or not so well, and to make preparations ahead of the European races.

“We hope that Spain will see another incremental step forward for Honda, in which we’ve prepared updates on the power unit to help with driveability and reliability. And like us, McLaren has had a productive two weeks and will be bringing more updates to test at the track and we’ll see how the car will run together as one.”

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for the injured Oliver Askew, also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at Ground Zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.