Alonso stresses importance of Triple Crown bid in 2018 racing plans

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Fernando Alonso has stressed that his bid for the Triple Crown of Motorsport remains a priority as he forms his 2018 racing plans, adding fuel to the fire of a shot at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Alonso began his push to become just the second driver in history to win the Triple Crown by taking part in the Indianapolis 500 in May as part of a joint entry between McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport.

Alonso has completed one leg by winning the Monaco Grand Prix twice, and has long-stressed his desire to race at Le Mans, dropping heavy hints last month in a press conference that he could target an appearance at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Contract talks with McLaren are continuing, with Alonso aiming to have a decision made by the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas next weekend.

Speaking during a live Q&A on Instagram, Alonso said he was continuing to mull over racing plans for next year, but said his Triple Crown bid remained a priority.

“I’m still thinking, still deciding. I could have already made a decision, but there’s still some details we need to figure out,” Alonso said.

“As I’ve said many times, my aim is to be the best driver in the world, to be the most complete driver in the world. For that, you need to win in different series in different cars at different times.

“The Triple Crown is still a very big priority for me, so I’m working on that.”

Alonso has already ruled out racing in the Indy 500 next year due to the clash with the Monaco Grand Prix, leaving Le Mans as the only possible way to further his Triple Crown bid.

There are no clashes between F1 and Le Mans in 2018, with both the test day and the starting of the Le Mans race week avoiding grand prix weekends.

Alonso would also be able to make his FIA World Endurance Championship debut at the 6 Hours of Spa at the beginning of May as a pre-cursor to Le Mans, with the event falling between grands prix in Azerbaijan and Spain.

Toyota is set to be the sole manufacturer racing in the LMP1 class of the WEC next year after Porsche’s departure, making it the only location for Alonso to possible end up if he wants to challenge for overall victory.

While this may have been hard to make happen when McLaren was partnered with rival Japanese manufacturer Honda, the F1 team will link up with Renault from 2018, opening up the possibility.

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.