THE RACE

Fernando Alonso latest surprise debut in the Legends Trophy

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Another multiple Formula One champion parachuted into the Legends Trophy race, but the usual faces were in victory lane.

Fernando Alonso, who is slated to attempt his second Indianapolis 500 this season, made his competitive esports sim racing debut Saturday in the doubleheader at virtual Circuit Zandvoort in Zandvoort, Netherlands.

Alonso, who won consecutive F1 titles with Renault in 2005-06, showed impressive speed in practice and qualifying but was unable to finish either race.

He qualified fourth in the opener but got caught up in several incidents. Early contact with Tiago Monteiro in the nightcap eliminated Alonso in a spectacular airborne crash.

The Legends Trophy is open to former drivers older than 40, but Alonso, who turns 39 in July, was granted a provisional entry. Four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel, 32, also was exempted for the May 2 races in the series, which allows former from Formula 1, IndyCar, sports cars and rally to compete virtually every Saturday at tracks around the world.

Sports car aces Jan Magnussen and Emanuele Pirro (who have a combined nine victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans) led wire to wire in each race for Round 3 race of the Legends Trophy in The Race All-Star Series powered by ROKiT Phones.

Magnussen won by 5.541 seconds over Jenson Button in the opener. Juan Pablo Montoya finished third ahead of Mika Salo.

β€œI wasn’t sure if I could put it on pole, but I knew I could put it in the top three probably, said Magnussen, the father of Haas F1 driver Kevin Magnussen. β€œI had a good start, and there was a little bit of stuff going on behind me that gave me a gap so I could just do my own thing – I’m very pleased with that.”

A 10th in the opener cost Pirro the points lead, but he rebounded by starting on pole in the reverse-grid second race. Pirro won by 9 seconds over Andy Priaulx and Darren Turner.

β€œI tried to push hard in the first one,” Pirro said. “I tried to keep out of trouble and it didn’t work! So, I think I deserve that one. The pace was not fantastic, but I am happy for a win.”

Button, the 2009 Formula One champion, took the points lead with a second in the opener and a fifth in the second race. Magnussen trails Button by 28 points with two rounds left. Montoya, who finished fourth in the second race, moved up to third with 206 points.

Next Saturday, the Legends Trophy will head to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Alonso also plans to race with the series again.

IndyCar: Tony Kanaan’s ‘Last Lap’ begins at Texas Motor Speedway

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The streak lives for Tony Kanaan. At least for one more race.

With Kanaan running only ovals during his farewell IndyCar season in 2020 – which has been dubbed the “Last Lap” – his record streak of 317 consecutive Indy-car starts was to end with the season opener March 15 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Fate had other plans. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forced the postponement of St. Pete (now the season finale in October) amid the shutdown of American sports.

IndyCar has made multiple changes to its 2020 schedule since then, and as a result, Kanaan is getting an opportunity to extend his “Ironman” streak.

The 2004 NTT IndyCar Series champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner is set for career start No. 318 on Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway – driving the No. 14 A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet alongside the team’s new full-season driver, Charlie Kimball, in the No. 4 Chevy.

“A lot of people ask me how I coped with the delay of the season,” Kanaan said Monday in an IndyCar Zoom news conference. “To be honest, I was mentally prepared already because my first real race was going to be the [Indy] 500. My mind was already set for May.

“I only really had to delay, what, a couple of weeks from what I was originally scheduled to do. For me, I think it wasn’t as hard as for the other guys that were already in St. Pete, ready to go.”

But while his mindset is locked in, Kanaan notes that he’s been out of a race car for eight months. In fact, as of Monday, he hadn’t sat in a car fitted with the new Aeroscreen cockpit protection system.

However, he is no stranger to the wild and woolly action at Texas. Ditto for his new-slash-old teammate, Kimball: The two competed together at Chip Ganassi Racing from 2014-17.

That experience is something A.J. Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt is grateful to have on his side.

“Going into this race, it’s huge,” Foyt said. “Especially with the one-day show, everything is accelerated, and going to a big track like Texas, having a guy like Charlie sit on the pole there [in 2017], knows his way around there, and obviously TK is very good there, as well.

“It’s a little bit of peace of mind for sure. Anything can happen, but the engineering group has been working really well together. We’re really hopeful we’re going to unload and get these guys some good cars out of the box. That’s the plan.”

Speaking of Kimball, the Californian is set to revive his full-time career in the sport after making just seven starts last season with Carlin.

He’s enjoyed his unexpected free time at home with his wife, Kathleen, and their two children, Hannah and newborn son Gordon, who arrived in March. But he’s grateful to get back in the car – and to accompany Tony on his ‘last lap.’

“We’re friends off the track,” Charlie said. “We train together. He’s gotten me addicted to riding a bicycle on a computer game, but also our wives are friends, and I think our families when we can get together and the kids can play, I think they’re going to interact really well. I’m excited for his daughter Nina to spend some time with our daughter.

“And the experience – I mean, he’s taught me things and I’ve learned a lot from him about how to restart on ovals and what you can and what you should and shouldn’t do and what he still does. That experience is invaluable to me to continue to learn and get better. I just feel really honored to be his teammate during his last lap, especially when we get back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500.”

The NTT IndyCar Series season begins Saturday night from Texas Motor Speedway with the Genesys 300 atΒ 8 p.m. ET on NBC. The race will also stream on NBCSports.comΒ and the NBC Sports app.