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Clutch failure ruins Triple Crown chase for Alonso

James Pavey

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Tuesday 25th August, 2020 - 8:30am

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Fernando Alonso

A clutch failure ultimately curtailed Fernando Alonso’s latest attempt to win motorsport’s Triple Crown after the Spaniard finished a lowly 21st in the Indianapolis 500.

From the day cars rolled out to Sunday’s chequered flag, the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 didn’t go to plan for the two-time Formula One world champion as crashes and a lack of pace kept Alonso consigned to the bottom half of the grid.

Alonso had been bidding to join Graham Hill as the only drivers to clinch the Triple Crown, which is achieved by winning the Monaco Grand Prix, 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500.

The Brickyard has proved an elusive venue for Alonso to master, with a DNF in 2017 and non-qualification in 2019 proving frustrating before another day of toil in 2020.

“It was a very eventful race for us. We didn’t have one lap of kindness, let’s say,” Alonso lamented after the race.

“We were struggling from the very beginning with the balance of the car with a lot of oversteer.

“We kept changing that balance in the pit stops, reducing the front flap, doing tire adjustments, and then we started to be happy with the car.

“We were up to P15 around Lap 110, which is where we wanted to be. We spent half the race going from P26 to P15 and then we had a clutch problem on the car that we didn’t know how to solve.”

After a Thursday practice crash, Alonso battled for confidence, yet admitted ahead of the race that he was moving in the right direction.

Starting 26th in his Chevrolet-powered Arrow McLaren SP, Alonso struggled to make ground in traffic and remained out of the spotlight as the race progressed.

By Lap 66, Alonso had already pitted three times, and clutch failure made the going tough for the remainder of the race.

The 2020 event was Alonso’s third attempt at winning the Indy 500 and the Triple Crown. It looks set to be his last for at least the next two years as he returns to Formula 1 with Renault in 2021.

Regardless of the result, a finish in 2020 marked some respite for the 39-year-old after his 2017 and 2019 disappointments.

“We finished the race without the clutch, so from that point on every pit stop we had to push the car, engage the gear and go,” he said.

“That cost us a lap and unfortunately, we kept that lap down until the end and we could not achieve anything more.

“I’m happy to finish the race, cross the line and have one 500 miles in the pocket, that’s the positive thing. The negative is that we were out of contention very quickly with the clutch problem.

“I’m very proud of the work we’ve done over the last couple of weeks. We tried to race, but luck was not with us today, but I’m proud of the effort from everyone in the team.”

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