Good work, rookie, come back in a few weeks

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - MICHAEL MAROT

IN­DI­ANAPO­LIS — Two-time For­mula One cham­pion Fer­nando Alonso passed his rookie ori­en­ta­tion test at In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speedway on Wed­nes­day, al­low­ing him to try to qual­ify for the In­di­anapo­lis 500 later this month.

Alonso turned 50 laps in his morn­ing test session, post­ing a best lap speed of 219.654 mph. It took less than three hours to pass all three phases of the rookie test on his first oval track.

The Span­ish driver is sched­uled to prac­tice an­other five hours Wed­nes­day, but rain was ex­pected to cut that session short. Alonso is not sched­uled to take ques­tions un­til after he is fin­ished for the day.

After IndyCar driver Marco An­dretti set up the No. 29 for An­dretti Au­tosport, Alonso strapped into the bright orange Honda and hit the track and ran sev­eral laps, mov­ing grad­u­ally past the 200 mph thresh­old to near 210 mph be­fore head­ing to the pits.

“He only has 20 mph to go,” IndyCar le­gend Mario An­dretti said. “He’s get­ting the feel of it. He’s do­ing ex­actly what he needs to do. The ex­pe­ri­ence that he has should dom­i­nate, but the anx­i­ety is still there.”

The Spa­niard will at­tempt to run the In­di­anapo­lis 500 later this month, and hope­fully, some day, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He’s on a quest to win what’s con­sid­ered the Triple Crown of rac­ing. That in­cludes the Monaco Grand Prix, which he’s al­ready won. This bid at In­di­anapo­lis re­quires him to master new cars and rac­ing styles.

“Fer­nando is com­ing in with a team that’s cer­tainly fresh with win­ning this race,” Mario An­dretti said. “He’s placed ex­actly right. I think I feel what he’s feel­ing right now.”

Alonso, whose 32 F1 wins rank sixth all-time, has com­peted be­fore at In­di­anapo­lis, but on the road course set up for the U.S. Grand Prix. He waited pa­tiently for his turn be­hind the wheel while Marco An­dretti ran sev­eral laps to get the car set up.

“You just need to make sure it stuck for him to get con­fi­dence,” Marco An­dretti said after ex­it­ing the car. “He’ll have to learn by fire. He’s ask­ing the right ques­tions. He’ll be fine. He’s a race car driver. I think he’ll leave to­day pretty con­fi­dent. He’s go­ing to be spoiled after to­day, that’s for sure.”

Alonso drives for strug­gling McLaren in For­mula One. He will be the sixth en­try for An­dretti Au­tosport at Indy in a part­ner­ship with Honda and McLaren. The 35year-old has be­gun pre­par­ing for Indy by test­ing on a sim­u­la­tor, where the walls aren’t so in­tim­i­dat­ing and there’s no traffic to ne­go­ti­ate.

Speedway pres­i­dent Doug Boles said Alonso’s planned ap­pear­ance in the race has sent ticket sales trend­ing higher than all but one of the last 20 years.

“It’s been great for the mo­men­tum and ex­cite­ment,” Boles said. “Fans from all over the world ... be­gan buy­ing tick­ets. It’s great for the brand.”

DARRON CUM­MINGS, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Race driver Fer­nando Alonso, of Spain, pulls out of the pits dur­ing a prac­tice session at the In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speedway Wed­nes­day.

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