Alonso inadvertently creates IndyCar’s next ‘double birds’ moment (VIDEO)

1 Comment

While undergoing his first test for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, Fernando Alonso experienced a lot – understanding the downforce, power, engine maps and pit stop in/out procedures.

And that was before he hit two birds, in an inadvertent and unintentional homage to one of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ most recent viral moments, when Will Power flipped the “double birds” – two middle fingers – to INDYCAR Race Director Brian Barnhart at a race in Loudon, 2011.

Power’s impetus came when that race on the 1-mile oval was restarted under rainy conditions. Oval races cannot be run in the rain as wet weather tires are not utilized on those circuits. With Power and others taken out as a result of a mistake from Race Control, Power released the middle fingers and earned a fine.

Alonso, the two-time Formula 1 World Champion, had otherwise had a smooth day, with his only major moment slight moisture interrupting one of his runs this afternoon.

But in his last major run of the day, Alonso’s No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti entry hit two birds with both his left and right front tires at exactly the same moment.

“I didn’t see that one coming. I saw one bird approaching Turn 3 in the penultimate run. I just lifted and avoided the bird,” Alonso said in the post-practice press conference. “Hopefully I avoid that on the race day. I saved one but not the other two. Those two, I didn’t notice. 

“It’s a double bird kill,” added Barnhart, ironically, during the IMS and NBCSN live web stream, as he was in the booth today with NBCSN’s Kevin Lee and Robin Miller.

The moment of impact was captured on video (linked above) and fortunately for Alonso, he was able to escape from the contact unscathed at more than 200 mph.

The same fate could not, however, have been said for the birds. It was racing’s equivalent of when Randy Johnson’s fastball stuck a dove during a 2001 Spring Training game.

The Arizona Diamondbacks, Johnson’s team, went on to win that year’s World Series. Could Alonso’s team, Andretti Autosport, pull off the racing equivalent results-wise too, in winning the Indianapolis 500? It remains to be seen.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
3 Comments

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.