Alonso, McLaren Conduct IndyCar Test At Texas Motor Speedway

paration for this year’s 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. 
It was the first time in an Indy car on a high-banked oval for the Spanish driver who started fifth and finished 24th in the 2017 Indy 500, winning rookie-of-the-year honors. 
The following are quotes from Alonso, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and McLaren ambassador Johnny Rutherford and Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage taken during the day’s lunch break:
How were your first laps on an oval in almost two years?
“It was great. Obviously, it’s only the first couple of laps with the car and we’re taking care of everything, slowly building the speed. But, yeah, I drove the Indy car at Barber (Motorsports Park) last year but it’s good to be back on the oval with a very specific setup and this car that turns left, self-steering a little bit. Again, some weird feeling for me but trying to get used to it. Also, the speedway is very special. There’s a lot of banking on the corner, especially in 3 and 4 so very different than Indianapolis but, hopefully, a good preparation for us.
What can you take from this test and apply to Indianapolis?
“Well, for myself, obviously it’s just about getting comfort in the car. Obviously, it’s a new car and a new team so, in terms of seat position, head rest, pedals, you know, steering wheel preferences, I think all these things I think now we can start the work. And for the team, I think it’s quite important to set up everything as a team: who does what in the team and also the people, the facility, everything is completely new for everyone. We’re trying to solve as many problems as possible here and the open test on the 24th and getting ready for the 500.
What have you noticed in the different aero kit from your last time in an Indy car?
“So far I think it’s too early to say because I’m not up to speed but, I guess, listening to everyone last year, I think there’s going to be less downforce, a little more tricky to drive, especially following, so today is not a problem because I’m alone but guess it’s going to be challenging. Especially this year, I am not in the Andretti (Autosport) environment so it’s all by ourselves this year, a lot to learn, a lot to understand and step by step.
Is your quest for the Triple Crown heightened now that you have two of them down and are concentrating on the Indy 500?
“Yeah, absolutely. That’s the target this year after winning Le Mans last year. The Indy 500 is the one left of the big ones. I was lucky enough to win Daytona 24 also at the beginning of the year so one day I win the Indy 500 it’s not going to be a Triple Crown anymore. It’s going to be a little bit more.”
Are you going to keep coming back until you win the Indianapolis 500?
“That’s a possibility. That’s definitely a possibility but, hopefully, we can be competitive at least this year and feel that adrenaline that only the Indy 500 has. In terms of winning, we understand how difficult it is. We respect a lot the race, our competitors and you need a little bit of luck as well. It has to be your day. Probably the race has to choose you, in a way, to win. We are aware of that. Some things are out of our hands so let’s concentrate on everything we can do as a team and make a perfect race. The outcome of the race let’s see at the end.
What advice has Johnny Rutherford given you?
“Obviously he’s always taking care of us, in terms of safety, that’s first. Trying to give me some advice on the bumps into (Turns) 3 and 4, and not getting too close to the wall at the exit of 2 because it seems you are quite far away eventually you find yourself very close when the banking finish. So, yes, these kinds of things are obviously very welcome and to have him on board is always a plus.”
Would you consider running the full INDYCAR season if McLaren came back with a dedicated team?
“It was a possibility last year when we started talking about the Indy 500 coming back. I think it was too intense for me, the season, if I commit to the full season with the WEC (World Endurance Championship) calendar, the Daytona 24, etcetera, so it was not this year but it is not out the question for the future. Right now, I’m not thinking of that.”
Can you see yourself living in America full-time to do that?
“I don’t know. It depends how life goes. At the moment I’m quite happy in Europe. After 18 years in Formula 1, I need a little bit of time at home, as well … see my family … see my parents … maybe have my own family in the near future … all these kinds of things. So I don’t know, in two or three years’ time, how my life is going to be and if I will be happy to live outside Europe or not.”
How much more prepared do you feel from two years ago?
“I feel quite a lot more prepared. At least I know the race. I know the atmosphere of the 500. I know the drivers’ parade. I know the formation laps. I know a lot of things that you spend energy on the first time you are there because everything comes by surprise. So I think that energy, I can save it now, I know how it goes, so I go into the rhythm of the race and to qualifying with a little more energy and more concentration. But I take this race as I was again starting from zero. I don’t want take for granted anything. I want to review every single race from the past. I want to start from zero with the engineers on everything. I want to go to the simulator. I didn’t make any pre-start yet, any pit stop. I want to make as much preparation as possible into the 26th of May.”
Johnny Rutherford, who earned two of his three Indianapolis 500s driving for McLaren (1974, 1976), was on-hand Tuesday at Texas Motor Speedway as a McLaren brand ambassador. Lone Star JR spoke with the media during the lunch break:
What’s it like being out here today with the McLaren team?
“It’s an honor for me. I, of course, was involved with Team McLaren, a whole different group of people, for seven years. I won two of my (Indianapolis) 500s for McLaren and had a lot of good runs in their cars. So it’s fun to be here on a new precipice and to see them develop and get ready to come INDYCAR racing again.”
What’s it like to see a McLaren orange paint scheme on the track again?
“It’s great. I had a lot of success in those cars. It’s good to see them back and to have that as their official color.”
Is this your favorite time of year?
“Yes, it gets pretty hectic. I’ve had a lot of things happen in my life early this year and so I’m just, you know, waiting to get myself organized for this May and all of the things can happen.”
Have you spoken to Fernando about this year’s 500?
“I did a little bit two years ago when he was there. The only problem I see is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We always referred to her as The Old Lady. She can throw curves at you like you would not believe. It’s one of those things you just have to be ready for. That’s where I hope I can plug in to see things developing or happening. It just depends on how strong they get the car and go out there and do it.”
How do you see Fernando’s strengths since he doesn’t have much oval experience?
“He’s a two-time World Champion and that says a lot for him and his ability. You can see him around here, the first time he’s ever been on a high-banked oval. Crank it on. He’s a race car driver and that’s what it’s all about.”
How do you see Alonso fitting into the McLaren’s INDYCAR family, alongside yourself and Peter Revson and some other huge names?
“There’s a spot available, I guess. You have to say he’s able to fill that void and make it happen.”
Also in attendance was Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage. Below are his thoughts on the Alonso/McLaren test.
What are your thoughts on having Fernando Alonso on the track today at Texas Motor Speedway?
“This is amazing to see a two-time World Champion, an athlete of the world, come to Texas Motor Speedway as he prepares for the Indy 500. I’m sure that he never thought he’d be running on a high-banked oval track, to see what that’s like, all the g-forces. It’s got to be a different experience for him than he’s ever had before. But a racer is a racer is a racer and he’s one of the greats of all time so it probably isn’t fazing him in the least. I’m sure he’s totally comfortable and at home and will only get faster and faster as the car allows. He’ll be great. What I’d like to see is him running the entire circuit in 2020 and beyond. That would be great for INDYCAR but his helps elevate the sport, helps elevate INDYCAR worldwide.”
Are you excited to see Texas Motor Speedway provide Alonso an experience he’s probably never had before?
“I would imagine there’s not many experiences in a race car he hasn’t had but this is a pretty big deal that he comes here and this is his first true experience on a high-banked oval. He ran Indianapolis but I don’t know if he has run other ovals coming up through the ranks in his career. But this is decidedly American, an oval track like Texas Motor Speedway. You don’t see these in Europe and the Far East so it’s unique to the United States. I’ll be really curious to hear what he thinks once he truly gets up to speed and gets some laps under his belt, senses these g-forces and realizes how short the straightaways get here when you get up to 210, 215 mph.”
What is he going to be up against in the Indy 500 from a driver talent standpoint?
“He’s up against some incredible talent. Obviously he has raced against the very best in the world in Formula 1 but remember, he ran well in the Indy 500 but he didn’t win it. He’s going to be up against some incredibly talented drivers in top-notch quality machines so he’s swimming upstream. But, he’s unique enough that you can’t be surprised if he wins Indy because he’s just that good but the difference between first and last place is just an eyelash which makes it so great. Indy cars at Indianapolis and here, you’re almost guaranteed a photo finish. They’re just amazing race cars.”
What would Alonso winning the Triple Crown mean to the world of motorsports?
“A Triple Crown is a great idea and I think it would be great for it to happen again. There have been some great champions that have run across different genres of racing. In the last 20 years or so, Nigel Mansell comes to mind, obviously Juan Pablo Montoya … so many have done it through the years but to have won all three you have to go back more than 50 years. I think it would be an amazing accomplishment. He’s certainly talented enough, experienced enough. He has two behind him and only has one more jewel to put in his crown. He’s the most likely candidate for it and it would be great to see. Those records are made to be broken and he’s just the guy.”
Have you had a chance to talk to Alonso about joining the INDYCAR Series fulltime?

“He’s been in the race car since I’ve been down here so I haven’t talked to him yet but he won’t leave without me having had the conversation. So we’ll see.”
The INDYCAR Series DXC Technology 600 weekend is scheduled for June 6-8 and will include the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Rattlesnake 400.