Posts Tagged ‘ Indy 500 ’

Alonso to race in the 2017 Indy 500, but what is the Indy 500? – all explained here for the uninitiated

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Hello F1 fans, you’re probably here because you’ve heard the news that Fernando Alonso is missing this year’s Monaco Grand Prix so that he can do the Indy 500. And you’re also here because you’re wondering what all this means, whether it is cool or not, and having established that it is cool, because you want to know exactly how cool.

Let me help. It is very cool.

In this article I will do my best to explain a little bit about the Indy 500, Indycar, and American Open Wheel racing in general, so you can begin to get excited about the Month of May 2017.

Let’s go racing!

What is the Indy 500?

The Indianapolis 500, or Indy 500, is the premier event in american open wheel racing, the flagship event of the Indycar series, and the largest annual sporting event by attendance in the world.

It is run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Which is not an oval.

Yes it is

No it isn’t, it is a 2.5 mile rectangle with rounded corners. There are four very distinct corners, each presenting its own unique challenge.

OK then, how long has the Indy 500 been going? 

This year will be the 101st Indy 500 race, but the first race was held waaaay back in 1911, by comparison the first Monaco Grand Prix is a relative newcomer, the first race being held in 1929.

Will Alonso score F1 world championship points?

No, but it wasn’t always this way. From 1950 to 1960, points from the Indy 500 counted towards the F1 Drivers Championship.

What’s the Triple Crown of Motorsport?

The Triple Crown is the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500, and the Le Mans 24 Hours. Fernando Alonso wants to win them all one day. It’s his own personal bucket list.

What’s the Quadruple Crown of Motorsport?

Well, it doesn’t exist, and if it did, many people would make a strong case for the 24 Hours of Daytona, but let’s be charitable and point to the Coca Cola 600, a NASCAR race which happens on the same day as the Indy 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix.

The same day?

Yep, and the timing means that you can watch the Monaco Grand Prix, followed by the Indy 500, followed by the Coke 600, if you can stand it.

Can you do Monaco and Indy on the same day?

Not any more, but I think when Concorde was still operating it was theoretically possible.

Can you do the 500 and the 600 on the same day?

Yes, and it’s done quite regularly which gives Indycar some good publicity with Nascar fans. (Nascar being way more popular than Indycar in the US, sadly)

How has this whole thing happened?

Simple. McLaren has Honda engines, Japanese ones. Many Indycars also have Honda Engines, American ones developed by Honda Performance Development. Since Fernando wants to do the Triple Crown, he needs to run Indy. And he isn’t getting any younger so he has to do it while he is still at the top of his game. These cars run 220 MPH and don’t have power steering.

220 MPH? I thought F1 was the fastest form of open wheel racing?

Nope. Although F1 cars are faster through twisty corners and can brake later than anyone, Indycars are the ones with the highest overall top speeds. So an F1 car would easily beat an Indycar around Spa, but the Indycar would leave it for dust at Indy.

What team is Alonso driving for?

He is going to be driving for Andretti Autosport, run by Michael Andretti, as a team mate of Marco Andretti. So, Andretti basically.

I’ve kind of heard of Andretti

Yes, you’re thinking of former F1 and Indycar driver Mario Andretti. Marco’s grandfather and Mario’s dad. He won the 1978 F1 world championship.

Did he drive for McLaren in F1?

Nope, but his son Michael, who is the team owner of Andretti Autosport, did. It was a bit of an ill-fated partnership though.

But McLaren has never raced in Indycar?

Yes it has, they even won the Indy 500 in 1974.

Shame they’re not racing this time

Agree, but as a half way house they are going to sponsor the car, so it will look like a McLaren.

But wait, you still haven’t explained how the whole thing happened

Well, F1 has changed ownership and is now american owned. McLaren has also lost Ron Dennis and now has an American Zac Brown in a senior position. Zac was for a long time expected to become some sort of boss of Indycar. A combination of Zac, Honda, American F1 owners, Andretti and Indycar have made this all happen.

Should we be excited?

I am. Put it this way. Indycar hasn’t been having the best of times over the past 20 years, because it has lacked a Bernie Ecclestone character to pilot it. Whilst the Indy 500 has remained strong, the same can’t be said for the rest of the Indycar season, which suffers from low viewing figures and poor attendance at some races.

Should I watch?

Absolutely, but make sure you do more background reading so you understand what’s going on. The racing is very different in style to F1, but it is no less exciting. The cars are not protoypes, they are pretty much stock vehicles, set up by each team, but don’t underestimate the strategy and the bravery which goes into making an Indy 500 winner.

How can I watch? 

If you’re in the UK, you can watch the F1 on Sky, the Indy 500 on BT Sport, and the Coke 600 on Premier Sports. In the US the F1 is on NBCSN, the Indy 500 on ABC, and the Coke 600 on whatever channel is showing Nascar that week.

Enjoy! I know I will.

 

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