Takuma Sato wins Indy 500 as engine failure ends Fernando Alonso's race

  • Forty-year-old Japanese driver wins 101st running of Indianapolis 500
  • Two-time F1 world champion Alonso held lead before race ended early

Takuma Sato has won the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 after a dramatic race at the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 40-year-old Japanese driver came through in the last few laps of the race to take victory over Hélio Castroneves in second.

Sato, a former Formula One driver, had only won one IndyCar race previously since joining the series in 2010. He had come close to winning the race in 2012, however, when he crashed out on the final lap as he battled Dario Franchitti for the lead. This time he held his nerve to give Andretti Autosport its third victory in four years at the Brickyard and shouted “Awesome!” into his radio as his win was confirmed. Ed Jones, Max Chilton and Tony Kanaan finished third, fourth and fifth respectively.

Much of the pre-race attention had been on Fernando Alonso, the two-time Formula One world champion who was competing as a 35-year-old rookie at the Indy 500. He held the lead several times before his engine blew with fewer than 25 laps of the 200-lap race to go. Up to that point the Spaniard had driven brilliantly, and was given an ovation by the fans as his day ended.

Fernando Alonso makes his way back to the garage area after dropping out with an engine problem.
Fernando Alonso makes his way back to the garage area after dropping out with an engine problem. Photograph: Sam Riche/AP

“I felt the noise, the engine friction, I backed off and saw the smoke. It’s a shame, I thought we deserved to finish the race and experience the end. Who knows which position we could be,” he said. “I mean the whole day has been a very nice experience. The racing was fun, it was nice. I think the performance was good, we were leading the race. It was a nice surprise to be with the best in oval racing and be competitive. Obviously I feel competitive, If I come back, it will be easier the second time. One of the best experiences of my career.”

Meanwhile, Alonso’s boss at McLaren, Zak Brown, left the possibility of a return for the Spaniard next year open. ‘We have to get through tonight,” Brown said, “but yeah, I’d like to see him back [at the Indy 500 next year] ... But our goal is to win the Monaco [F1 Grand Prix] next year with Fernando in the car.”

The race was hit by drama early on when pole sitter Scott Dixon and Jay Howard were involved in a huge crash that tore Dixon’s car in half. The New Zealander’s car collided with Howard’s after the Briton had slid into the outside wall and rebounded back into traffic. Debris was strewn across the circuit and the race had to be stopped while the track was cleared. Both men walked away unharmed. “I’m OK, I was just a little beaten up there. I’m bummed for the team, man,” said Dixon. “We were starting to make some progress, we were a little light on the downforce. I’m just glad everybody is OK.” And on the crash itself: “It’s just a wild ride and you have to hold on and believe in the safety progress that we’ve made over the last many years.”

The caution flag came out again when Conor Daly smashed into the wall on Turn 3 and Buddy Lazier, the winner of the 1996 Indy 500, was taken to hospital with chest discomfort after a hard crash shortly afterwards. The race was then stopped with 17 laps to go after a huge collision involving Oriol Servia, James Hinchcliffe, James Davison and Will Power.


Tom Lutz

The GuardianTramp

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