Is it the desire of McLaren to win their first Indy 500 since 1976 (Johnny Rutherford) or the desire of Fernando Alonso to complete the ‘Triple Crown of Motorsport’? That is the question of many questions.
There are two current drivers who can achieve the Triple Crown. The only person to grab hold of this elusive title is Graham Hill.
That fact is quite historic.
The ‘Triple Crown of Motorsport’ to those who know better includes the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monaco, the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, not the F1 World Championship. There is a thought that it is the F1 World Championship instead of the Monaco Grand Prix, but that is just a modern way of thinking (in the eyes of this writer and many other motor racing fans).
Base the theory on the Monaco Grand Prix, Indy 500 and Le Mans and this year two drivers go head-to-head as the only two people in the world who can achieve this feat.
Fernando Alonso and Juan Pablo Montoya.
The only man to complete the Triple Crown (in real terms) is Graham Hill.
Alonso has won the F1 Monaco Grand Prix in 2006 and 2007. Montoya has won the Monaco Grand Prix in 2003 and the Indy 500 in 2000. Montoya has one more race to complete the set, whereas Alonso has the Indy and Le Mans.
Now, we all know Alonso wants to race Le Mans, we also know that Montoya is gearing himself up for Le Mans and this, aside from any racing fan-ship, poses a fantastic option.
Which of these two, if any of them, will grab it?
McLaren in association with Andretti Motorsport have recently announced their inclusion for the Indianapolis 500 with Fernando Alonso. That, in itself, should raise some interest in the motor racing family. Some may look back and comment and think it slightly strange.
Take stock for one moment what I said before, there is only one other driver in the history of motorsport who has completed this task, Graham Hill. Now wonder at the thought that there are two drivers who could do this, now in our modern time right in front of our eyes.
McLaren, as a team, last entered the Indy 500 in 1979, their last win was 1976 when Johnny Rutherford won, having won in 1974 and the team finishing second in 1975. A great era.
But what of now?
McLaren in Formula One aren’t doing so well, they want to do better as do their fans, but they aren’t.
Is this some kind of PR stunt? Maybe.
Is it a platform for Fernando Alonso to complete the near impossible at the end of his career? I think it might be.
It is not a hidden fact that Alonso is not the happiest bunny in the world when it comes to the Formula One World Championship, but can McLaren be competitive at the Indy 500?
Can McLaren be competitive at the Indy 500 when they can’t compete at the top in Formula One? Different series, different regulations and different rules.
If Alonso is, and it is strange to say this about the double world champion, as a rookie could win the Indy 500, he would then be on par with Juan Pablo Montoya.
Juan Pablo Montoya won the Monaco Grand Prix in 2003, he also won the Indy 500 in 2000. He has won two of the Triple Crowns.
Fernando Alonso has won the Monaco Grand Prix twice in 2006 and 2007 but is yet to win an Indy 500 and like Montoya, a Le Mans.
They are both yet to win the toughest race in the world, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Both men want to race Le Mans but only Montoya is in a place at this time to achieve this. Are McLaren putting all their eggs in one basket and putting Alonso out there?
It is no secret that Zak Brown loves Le Mans and the Indy 500 and if Honda in Formula One are not delivering and their ageing, experienced and still talented driver in Alonso is delivering then why not look at another series or race? To see a McLaren team at the Indy 500 is an amazing sight and, if they intimate, to see them at Le Mans would be fantastic.
Zak Brown loves his Formula One history, he is American, he has pedigree in sportscar racing and he likes to make a difference. Based on this information it is not beyond the impossible that Fernando Alonso winning the Indy 500 and then competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. That is not fantasy, that is fact.
I put Juan Pablo Montoya into the equation. He has two of the titles and is readily experienced to win the third, the toughest and the hardest to get. The 24 Hours. He is testing cars for this.
Make no mistake, it does not matter whether you are an IndyCar groupie, a WEC fan, a Le Mans veteran, a Formula One addict or a racing fan in general. The battle in mainstream racing is not F1 and Ferrari vs Mercedes or Vettel vs Hamilton, this year or next it is whether the Triple Crown can be equalled and there are only two drivers who can currently achieve this. But who and when? That are the questions.
Montoya and Alonso.
So…..when it comes to the 500 this year, it just got a little more interesting for Alonso and McLaren and for Montoya….well, we all know that pout and that bravado of the man that is Montoya and he will think, ‘All I need to do is win Le Mans”. Alonso will readily accept the 500 challenge and look ahead.
Are McLaren going for the Triple Crown or will Montoya beat them to it?
It won’t be answered this year, but it does pose many other questions, among those, are McLaren moving over to sportscars again?
That is for another article.
For now, where would your money go, Montoya or Alonso?
But what if Alonso won the 500 this year, one of the most difficult races to win? What then?
If Alonso and McLaren win the 500 then it is just Le Mans to win and then THAT is driver vs driver…..Alonso vs Montoya…..Manufacturer vs Manufacturer and a sponsors absolute dream.
McLaren fans will obviously be willing Alonso on, IndyCar and NASCAR fans will be courting Montoya, but proper racing fans and neutrals will be hoping Alonso wins the 500.
Because if Alonso wins the Indy 500 then the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans just got a whole lot more interesting and the only other drive aside Montoya and apart from Graham Hill, would be in contention to win the Triple Crown of Motorsport.
Whether you are a Formula One, IndyCar or Le Mans fan I can only offer one piece of advice. Grab your favourite beverage and snack…sit back and watch. You may well watch history in the making. You may not, but you never know.
Alonso vs Montoya. Pick your seat.
And on that…..I will see you at the chequered flag.