INDIANAPOLIS, May 3 (Reuters) - Fernando Alonso was quickly up to speed at the famed Brickyard on Wednesday, blazing through his IndyCar rookie orientation to close on earning a spot on the starting grid for the Indianapolis 500.
Alonso, who has competed in 276 Formula One races and is a double world champion, is an IndyCar debutant and arrived at in Indianapolis needing to pass a rookie test which he did with flying colours by recording an unofficial top speed of 221.721 mph (356.825kph).
The Spaniard set the motor racing world buzzing when he announced he had been granted clearance by his McLaren F1 team to skip the Monaco Grand Prix and race in the 101st Indy 500 on May 28 in pursuit of the sport’s triple crown - victories at Monte Carlo, Indy and Le Mans.
Twice a winner in Monaco, Alonso’s Indy 500 bid will come with Andretti Autosport, who put rookie Alexander Rossi in Victory Lane last year.
Alonso looked right at home at the Brickyard as he slipped into the number 29 car and quickly had the orange Honda, sporting the livery of early McLaren F1 cars, turning laps of more than 200mph around the 2.5 mile oval.
The rookie orientation program was the first on-track step for Alonso. All first-year competitors in the Indianapolis 500 must complete a gradual introduction to the speeds and unique nature of the sprawling track. Rookie drivers complete 40 laps in three speed phases, the first requiring drivers to do 10 laps of over 210 mph. Phase two requires 15 laps at 215 mph followed by phase three of 15 laps at faster than 220 mph.
The 35-year-old Spaniard will now focus on getting more familiar with his IndyCar ahead of qualifying on May 20 and 21. (Editing by Ed Osmond)