FERNANDO Alonso will skip the Monaco Grand Prix in order to race in this year's Indianapolis 500.
No. It's not April 1. You've read that lead sentence correctly.
The two-time Formula 1 world champion is going to sit out a race of the 2017 season in order to race in the crown jewel of the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Alonso's Indy 500 entry hasn't just been anointed by McLaren and Honda; they will be heading to the legendary Brickyard with him.
"I'm immensely excited that I'll be racing in this year's Indy 500, with McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport,” Alonso said.
"The Indy 500 is one of the most famous races on the global motorsport calendar, rivalled only by the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Monaco Grand Prix, and it's of course a regret of mine that I won't be able to race at Monaco this year.
"But Monaco will be the only 2017 Grand Prix I'll be missing, and I'll be back in the cockpit of the McLaren-Honda MCL32 for the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal in early June.”
McLaren has yet to announce who will replace Alonso in the F1 McLaren for the race. The team currently still has Jenson Button under contract.
Alonso is not there to merely experience the atmosphere of the biggest one-day sporting event in the world.
He wants to drink the milk; Alonso is going to the Indy 500 to win.
To do so he would complete two of the three legs of world motorsport's Triple Crown, victories in the Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500 and the Le Mans 24 Hours sportcar race.
"I've won the Monaco Grand Prix twice, and it's one of my ambitions to win the Triple Crown, which has been achieved by only one driver in the history of motorsport: Graham Hill,” Alonso said.
"It's a tough challenge, but I'm up for it. I don't know when I'm going to race at Le Mans, but one day I intend to.
"I'm only 35: I've got plenty of time for that.”
While McLaren may be better known as a Formula 1 team, it has a winning history in IndyCar racing.
McLaren ran an IndyCar squad throughout the 1970s and sold cars to customers.
The factory squad won the '500 with Johnny Rutherford twice, while Mark Donohue piloted a McLaren to Team Penske's first victory in the race in 1972.
Their partners for this remarkable venture, Andretti Autosport, are no strangers to either Honda or McLaren.
The team have used Honda power units for all but a couple of years since 2003, while Michael Andretti himself drove for McLaren in F1 in 1993.
At the moment, Alonso will take part in the Spanish Grand Prix on May 14, then head straight to Indianapolis on the 15th for practice sessions throughout the week.
The race's unique two-day qualifying procedure is the next hurdle on May 20-21. Should he make the race, he will get one last day of practice on the 28th before the race itself on May 30.
Andretti, son of the legendary Mario and father to current IndyCar racer Marco, is regarded as the greatest driver never to win the '500.
It is unclear when Alonso will get his first drive of an IndyCar on an oval, but Andretti expects he will not take long to get up to speed.
"Fernando's lack of experience on super-speedways is not of concern to me,” he said.
"I do believe that the Indianapolis 500 is one of the best places for a rookie to start because there is the opportunity for so much practice time on the track - and, as we have demonstrated, it can be won by a rookie.”
Last year's 100th running of the race was captured by Andretti Autosport's satellite squad with rookie Alexander Rossi at the wheel.
Alonso is also backing himself to get his head around the challenge quickly.
"I've never raced an IndyCar car before, and neither have I ever driven on a super-speedway, but I'm confident that I'll get to grips with it fast,” he said.
"I've watched a lot of IndyCar action on TV and online, and it's clear that great precision is required to race in close proximity with other cars on the far side of 354km/h.
"I realise I'll be on a steep learning curve, but I'll be flying to Indianapolis from Barcelona immediately after the Spanish Grand Prix, practising our McLaren-Honda-Andretti car at Indy from May 15th onwards, hopefully clocking up a large number of miles every day, and I know how good the Andretti Autosport guys are.
"I'll be proud to race with them, and I intend to mine their knowledge and expertise for as much info as I possibly can.”
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