Alonso completes Rookie Orientation Program ahead of Indy 500 debut


Fernando Alonso passed his Rookie Orientation Program on Wednesday at IMS - Credit: Chris Owens / IndyCar

Fernando Alonso made quick work of the Rookie Orientation Program that he was required to undertake ahead of his planned Indianapolis 500 debut this month of May.

The Spaniard took to the track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the #29 Honda-powered Andretti Autosport Dallara for the first time on Wednesday and ran 110 laps of the legendary 2.5-mile oval, with a fastest lap of 222.548mph.

It only took the double Formula 1 World Champion 51 laps to complete all three stages of Rookie Orientation, which required 10 laps between 205-210mph, 15 laps at 210 to 215mph and 15 laps above 215mph, and has now been cleared to compete in this year’s 101st Indy 500.

“It was fun,” said Alonso, who had Marco Andretti shake down the car ahead of his own first laps. “At this moment, everything looks good. Now it’s time to start the real thing.

“I think it’s a good way to start, to build speed. It was difficult at (the) beginning to reach the minimum speed. The next stages felt good, not because of the speed but because of the laps. You’re able to fine-tune the lines; upshift, downshift, which gears to use in the corner.

“The simulator is quite realistic. You have the first impression of how it’s going to be. But the real car is a unique feeling. When you have to go flat out in the corner, it’s not the same in the simulator as in the real car.

“The team has been amazingly helpful,” he added. “Running alone is quite OK. We’ll see in the next weeks. So far a good experience. Now is the real deal.”

Team owner Michael Andretti was impressed with the Alonso’s first day in an IndyCar, feeling that the performance gives hope that he will be a factor during the race at the end of the month.

“He gets it,” said Andretti. “He’s one of the best in the world and you can see why. He had a little bit of understeer in that run and he adjusted his line because of the understeer.

“He’s the real deal. I think he’s going to be really strong this month.”

Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first day in an IndyCar at IMS – Credit: Chris Owens / IndyCar