Chevy to power McLaren's effort for Fernando Alonso at Indy 500

Fernando Alonso’s McLaren effort in the 103rd Indianapolis 500 will be powered by Chevrolet.

That deal was officially announced at 7 a.m. Eastern Time on December 4, but it was considered a foregone conclusion once top Honda officials in Japan prohibited any involved with a McLaren IndyCar team because of perceived disloyalty to Honda over negative comments the team made about its ill-fated and under-performing Formula One engine in 2017.

IndyCar officials worked hard with Honda Performance Development (HPD) to try to get Honda Japan to reconsider its decision, but Honda Japan remained steadfast in its edict.

Despite that, McLaren announced on November 9 that it was returning to the Indianapolis 500 in 2019 with Fernando Alonso, although no mention at that time was made about an engine partner. With Honda out, that left Chevrolet and it was only a matter of time before that announcement was made.

Alonso, a two-time Formula One World Champion, will compete in the 2019 Indianapolis 500 in a McLaren Racing entry powered by Chevrolet’s 2.2-liter twin turbocharged direct injected V6 IndyCar engine. The Chevy power plant powered the defending winner of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, and three Indy 500 winners since its 2012 IndyCar Series introduction.

“It will be a privilege to wear the Bowtie Brand at the 2019 Indy 500,” Alonso said. “Having Chevrolet power behind me means we’re putting ourselves in the best possible position to compete at the front. I had a bit of a taste of Chevy power last week in Jimmie Johnson’s NASCAR and I liked it! The opportunity to contest any Indy 500 is an honor, so I’m proud to have Chevrolet as part of the team.”

Alonso won F1 championships in 2005 and 2006 and is sixth all-time in the series with 32 victories and 97 podium finishes.

“It’s exciting to partner with Fernando Alonso and McLaren for the 2019 Indianapolis 500,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “Fernando brings incredible driving talent, and a passion for the sport and winning the biggest races in the world. When Fernando is on track, it’s electric. He generates excitement among fans everywhere.

“Chevrolet and McLaren have a storied racing history dating back to the mid-1960s, so it will be special to partner with McLaren at the 2019 Indianapolis 500.”

Autoweek attempted to contact McLaren CEO Zak Brown and McLaren’s group communications director Tim Bampton Sunday, but neither would confirm at that time they were ready to announce an agreement with Chevrolet.

“We’ll confirm relevant details as and when it’s appropriate,” they told Autoweek.

Tuesday morning, it was confirmed.

In 1966, Chevrolet and McLaren partnered in the Can-Am Series, where the teams won over 70 percent of the races over the next seven years – including 23 in a row from 1968-1970.

“McLaren and Chevrolet have a shared pedigree in North American motorsport and the opportunity to reunite the two brands for this special event was just too good to pass up,” said Zak Brown, Chief Executive, McLaren Racing. “Like McLaren, Chevrolet has racing in its heart. The company’s reputation in IndyCar and at this special race is first-class and they will be a powerful partner.”

IndyCar CEO Mark Miles was contacted by Autoweek Monday and indicated he would let McLaren make the announcement. When asked if a Chevrolet deal was completed, Miles told Autoweek, “I’m not saying that, but I’m not saying you are wrong, either.

“They have had enough conversations to know they are going to have a successful ride returning to the Indianapolis 500 and I don’t have any doubt that they are going to be in,” Miles continued. “But, it’s up to McLaren to announce they have a deal and they will pull it together at their own pace and put the necessary arrangements in place.

“I think they are committed and will be able to put Fernando Alonso in a car in a competitive situation."

Toward the end of the 2018 season, it appeared that McLaren would once again be part of the Andretti Autosport effort either with the main team, or a “Junior Team” arrangement with Harding Racing. It became problematic with rival team owners that Andretti would be involved with both manufacturers. That perceived conflict will be avoided once Steinbrenner Harding Racing officially announces its move to Honda.

But instead of an alignment with McLaren, Steinbrenner Harding Racing will feature two young drivers including 2018 Indy Lights champion Patricio O’Ward and young driver Colton Herta in IndyCar in 2019.

“To me, they are doing their own thing,” said two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser, Jr., who is now a member of management at Steinbrenner-Harding Racing. “I don’t see them joining with another team. They have hired a team manager and they have said they are coming IndyCar racing. Hiring their own team manager tells me they are not aligning with a specific team. They are going to get the Dallara and start racing IndyCar and figure it out on their own.

“And, they can do that. Running Chevrolet, Pratt & Miller is their aerodynamic partner and their models are spot-on.

“As far as the Indianapolis 500, I don’t think it will take a big, steep learning curve. They have great people to do their own thing. That is how I see it. I don’t see them aligning with anybody.”

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