McLaren boss Zak Brown. Photo: Getty Images.

McLaren won’t run IndyCar team in 2019, but could still do Indy 500

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In what isn’t a complete surprise, McLaren will not mount a full-time effort in IndyCar in 2019.

After months of speculation, McLaren boss Zak Brown announced Friday that the organization will hold off on entering IndyCar until at least 2020 so that it can continue to devote more time and resources to rebuild its lagging Formula One program.

“We’ve taken the decision to not compete on a full-time basis in 2019,” Brown said, according to ESPN. “We’re simply not ready yet and are focused on Formula One, so we won’t be doing that in 2019.

“We do have the desire, as we’ve mentioned before, in the near future.”

However, Brown – who spoke with reporters Friday at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, site of this Sunday’s U.S. Grand Prix – did not rule out the possibility that McLaren could still enter a car in the 2019 Indianapolis 500.

McLaren took part in a joint venture with Andretti Autosport to field Fernando Alonso in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. Alonso led 27 of the race’s 200 laps, and appeared to be a strong contender to win until his car suffered engine failure late in the race. Takuma Sato ultimately won the race.

MORE: 2-time F1 champ Fernando Alonso hints Indy 500 return possible

If McLaren does field an entry in the 2019 Indy 500, it likely would be another partnership situation. Speculation has included a partnership between McLaren and Andretti Autosport once again, as well as talk of a deal with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

“As far as the Indy 500 (in 2019) is concerned, it’s something that remains of interest to us,” Brown said. “That’ll be a decision that ultimately we take in the off-season and it’s something Fernando would like to do.”

Alonso has announced that this will be his final season in F1, of which he’s a two-time past champion.

“Right now we’re still focused on Formula One and until we get a little bit of fresh air we’ll remain focused on that,” Brown said.

It’s unclear what Alonso will do for 2019 in terms of open-wheel racing. He tested an Andretti Autosport Indy car for a full day last month at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama.

Speculation on McLaren’s pullback from racing in IndyCar next season also centers about whether it would be able to get an adequate powerplant to field an entry for all 17 races in 2019.

Honda has balked at the possibility of providing engines to McLaren due to past issues involving the F1 program.

Chevrolet, the only other engine provider in IndyCar, could be a potential supplier, but there does not appear to be a current IndyCar team that would be able to field a car for Alonso.

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Three in position to capture World Rally Championship title at Rally Australia

Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Defending champion Sebastien Ogier goes into this weekend’s Rally Australia with a chance to clinch his sixth World Rally Championship in a row. Thierry Neuville, a runner-up four times but never a champion, hopes to change the world order.

Neuville led the series for much of the season but Ogier’s win in Britain and a second place in Spain has given the Frenchman 204 points, three ahead of Neuville, heading into the final rally of the championship.

“We are not the best friends but we are rivals and respect each other for our performances,” Neuville said Wednesday. “I’ve been second many times in the championship now, we are so close to the main goal.”

“If we need to take more risks because we need to pass Sebastien we’re going to try,” the Belgian driver added, “we’ll take the maximum risks.”

Ogier says the feeling is mutual when it comes to his main rival.

“We are different, definitely, but most important we’re in a great fight together and respect each other for that,” Ogier said. “It’s about trying to beat each other and do it with respect.”

Ott Tanak of Estonia sits 23 points behind and with 30 points for a win in Australia, and other results going his way, he could also capture the world title.

Ogier will be hoping for some Friday morning rain to settle the dust and gravel before he sets off first on what will be more than 300 kilometers (180 miles) of timed racing through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast, about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports