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McLaren returns to Indy 500, weighs up IndyCar options

British motorsport group McLaren Racing has confirmed it will return to compete in the Indianapolis 500 as it continues to weigh up a full-time entry in US motor-racing series IndyCar.

McLaren will contest the 103rd running of the iconic race on May 26, with Fernando Alonso at the wheel, as the Spaniard again attempts to complete the final part of world motorsport’s unofficial Triple Crown.

Alonso is due to retire from Formula One at the end of the current 2018 season, following four years with McLaren. Competing in his second Indy 500, the 37-year-old will attempt to become only the second driver ever to secure the Triple Crown, having already achieved victories in F1’s Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The feat was achieved by Britain’s Graham Hill in 1972 with his win at Le Mans.

McLaren and Alonso competed at the 2017 Indianapolis 500, which the Spaniard led for several periods before being forced to retire in the closing stages of the race. McLaren has won the Indy 500 three times: once in 1972 supplying a private entry and twice as a works entry, in 1974 and 1976. In 2019, it will return as McLaren Racing with a dedicated team.

McLaren Racing chief executive Zak Brown maintains the Indy 500 tilt will not impact on its F1 team. “We’re a large racing team with lots of resources, and I’m extremely confident or we would not have entered that we will give maximum effort to F1 and this Indy 500 effort without one compromising the other,” he said, according to the Autosport website.

“It’s going to be people that aren’t currently on our F1 team. It will be built up from relationships that we have. But yes, it will be a new McLaren entry. We always had a desire to go as McLaren Racing, last time we did it at such short notice I think it would have been impossible – I think it was six weeks between announcing and racing – and you can’t build a race team up that quickly.

“The shareholders and ourselves wanted to go as McLaren Racing, that’s why we made the announcement today, to give us sufficient time to bring those resources and people in, to have our own team.”

Brown admits that next year’s Indy 500 bid will serve as a valuable learning experience as McLaren continues to analyse the possibility of making a full entry into IndyCar. He added: “Certainly we’ll be in a position where we’re there with the equipment, people, resources, so it certainly gives you a head start if ultimately we decide to do a full-time entry.

“IndyCar as a series is attractive to McLaren Racing. We have big ambitions, first and foremost to get back to winning world championships, and winning F1 races, but we think the IndyCar series, the market which it races in, how they go motor racing, is of interest to McLaren.

“It’s something that from a longer term point of view continues to be under review, and which certainly I’d like to see us a full-time entry in the future.”