Takuma Sato took victory in the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500, with engine problems on two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso’s Andretti car scuppering his chances of victory late on.
Helio Castroneves’ bid for a record-equalling fourth crown at the Brickyard fell just short in second, with Sato passing the Penske driver with five laps to run. British rookie Ed Jones took third for Coyne.
It proved a caution-strewn event, with pole-sitter Scott Dixon lucky to escape unharmed from a huge collision with Jay Howard, and a similar five-car pile-up at Turn 2 close to the end of the race.
In typical Indy 500 fashion, it was a race that went down to the wire.
Tony Kanaan kicked off proceedings by making an early pass on Dixon for the lead at Turn 3, whilst Alonso’s first start at Indy saw him fall through the field to the lower reaches of the top ten, the Spaniard apparently needing two reminders on the final parade lap to alter his engine mode to the correct setting.
He fought back and, after the first round of pit stops, relieved 2016 rookie winner Alexander Rossi of the race lead at a quarter distance.
The contest was red-flagged shortly after as Howard, who moved wide in an attempt to give Ryan Hunter-Reay space to pass on the inside as he was lapped, hit the wall at Turn 2 and helplessly moved back across the circuit into the fast-moving Dixon.
Dixon’s Ganassi was thrown into the air as Castroneves charged underneath in avoidance, before hitting the tyre barrier and damaging the catch fences aligning the circuit. Dixon’s car briefly ignited as it came back to earth, rolling once more before coming to a halt. Both drivers were luckily unharmed.
Rossi and then eventual winner Sato would then take turns at the front having usurped Alonso before the caution flags flew once more as local racer Conor Daly’s Foyt – running a lower downforce setting in an attempt to make up for lost performance compared to its rivals – snapped mid-corner in an attempt to pass Kimball on the outside line and speared him into the barrier.
British rookie Jack Harvey was duly collected by some of the debris and spun his Andretti into a similar retirement on the infield.
Fast-forward to half-distance and Castroneves had hit the front once more, with Sato losing time in the pits due to a loose wheel-nut at his next stop, though Hunter-Reay and Alonso looked likely challengers close behind.
Hunter-Reay was able to break clear and stretch his legs, extending an advantage of 3.5 seconds, but the nature of the Indy oval means the lack of a ‘drafting partner’ made challenge inevitable as the laws of physics worked against the performance of Hunter-Reay’s Andretti.
He maintained that controlled position – despite a brief stint in front for Alonso – until his Honda engine let go and he was forced into retirement.
Alternative pit strategy had thrown Max Chilton into the mix as an unlikely challenger with Jones – but whilst one kept himself in the hunt the former fell back.
Then, in beautifully ironic fashion, came the suckerpunch for Alonso’s plucky rookie performance, as his Honda-powered Andretti slowed down the main straight as his challenge for victory late on fell apart and he was forced into retirement. His solution to Honda’s engine struggles in Formula 1 had been to challenge Indy – nature’s response was to throw the two-time champion a similar hand.
The truncated race would have one more stoppage as five cars – Will Power, James Hinchcliffe, James Davison, Oriol Servia and Josef Newgarden – crashed at Turn 2.
Chilton defended valiantly from Castroneves on the restart as Sato made his way to the front, but ultimately was unable to hang on as Sato capitalised on the latter’s frustration to take the lead – and then keep an advantage of three tenths of a second to the flag fall.
It feels justified after his near-miss in 2012, but many struggled to hide their disappointment as Alonso’s rookie showing – hailed as impressive from all quarters – ultimately fell short. Alonso misses out due to Honda engine woes – sounds familar, doesn’t it?
101st INDIANAPOLIS 500 – RESULT (200 LAPS):
|1||Takuma SATO||Andretti Autosport||3h13m03.3584s|
|2||Helio CASTRONEVES||Team Penske||+0.201s|
|3||Ed JONES||Dale Coyne Racing||+0.527s|
|4||Max CHILTON||Chip Ganassi Racing||+1.136s|
|5||Tony KANAAN||Chip Ganassi Racing||+1.647s|
|6||Juan Pablo MONTOYA||Team Penske||+1.715s|
|7||Alexander ROSSI||Andretti Herta||+2.422s|
|8||Marco ANDRETTI||Andretti Autosport||+2.541s|
|9||Gabby CHAVES||Harding Racing||+3.831s|
|10||Carlos MUNOZ||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||+4.531s|
|11||Ed CARPENTER||Ed Carpenter Racing||+4.622s|
|12||Graham RAHAL||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||+5.031s|
|13||Mikhail ALESHIN||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||+5.699s|
|14||Simon PAGENAUD||Team Penske||+6.051s|
|15||Sebastien SAAVEDRA||Juncos Racing||+12.666s|
|16||J.R. HILDEBRAND||Ed Carpenter Racing||+33.219s|
|17||Pippa MANN||Dale Coyne Racing||+1 lap|
|18||Spencer PIGOT||Juncos Racing||+6 laps|
|19||Josef NEWGARDEN||Team Penske||+14 laps|
|20||James DAVISON||Dale Coyne Racing||Damage|
|21||Oriol SERVIA||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||Damage|
|22||James HINCHCLIFFE||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||Damage|
|23||Will POWER||Team Penske||Damage|
|25||Charlie KIMBALL||Chip Ganassi Racing||Mechanical|
|26||Zach VEACH||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||Mechanical|
|27||Ryan HUNTER-REAY||Andretti Autosport||Mechanical|
|28||Sage KARAM||Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||Mechanical|
|29||Buddy LAZIER||Lazier Racing||Damage|
|30||Conor DALY||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||Damage|
|31||Jack HARVEY||Michael Shank Racing||Damage|
|32||Scott DIXON||Chip Ganassi Racing||Damage|
|33||Jay HOWARD||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||Damage|