By: Tanner Watkins
December 4, 2018 | 8:21 AM
This morning McLaren Racing formally tied the knot with Chevrolet, confirming its engine partner for the 103rd Indianapolis 500. The long-awaited news came after weeks of speculation led to the General Motors brand likely partnering with the U.K.-based motorsports organization.
In 2017, McLaren made their return to the Indianapolis 500 after a nearly 40-year absence when two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso took a crack at the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” As a result of the team’s ties to Honda in Formula 1 at that time, McLaren aligned with Honda and Andretti Autosport for the 2017 race.
The partnership McLaren had with Honda seems to have dissolved completely now with the team moving to Renault power in Formula 1 while passing on an opportunity to run the Japanese power plant at Indianapolis.
“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 the chief executive of McLaren Racing, Zak Brown.
“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.”
Chevrolet won the most recent Indianapolis 500 with Will Power and his Team Penske machine taking the checkered flag back on May 27. The team’s performance has not been lost on Alonso, who has been quick to note the Bowtie’s performance at Indianapolis in recent months.
“It will be a privilege to wear the Bowtie Brand at the 2019 Indy 500,” said Alonso. “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 earlier this week in Jimmie’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.”
In his lone Indianapolis 500 start, Alonso was running safely inside the top ten drivers during the race’s closing stages when his Honda engine expired on lap 179. Alonso’s confirmation for Indianapolis comes after he was announced to join Wayne Taylor Racing and fellow General Motors engine, Cadillac, in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
It seems that the move to Chevrolet power for the 2019 Indianapolis 500 may be a sign of things to come for the developing McLaren Racing Indy car program. A longstanding rumor has Andretti Autosport departing Honda for Chevrolet at the end of 2019, and that would make a McLaren-Andretti technical alliance much more probable with Chevrolet being the link.
“Our partnership with Chevrolet is a key piece of our plan for the 2019 Indy 500,” said Bob Fernley, the newly appointed president of McLaren IndyCar. “As the reigning winning engine, the Chevrolet motor puts us in a strong position to contest this incredibly challenging event.
“We’ve quickly established a strong working relationship with the Chevrolet team, who are absolute professionals, committed to the challenge, and true racers.”
While the statements focus solely on McLaren’s partnership with Chevrolet for 2019, all the signs point towards a noticeable excitement for what could be in 2020.
“It’s exciting to partner with Fernando Alonso and McLaren for the 2019 Indianapolis 500,” stated Jim Campbell, the U.S. vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports for Chevrolet. “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.”
Alonso will have his first chance to return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval for the IndyCar Series’ open test scheduled for April 24. The opening day of practice for May’s 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 is May 14.
Header image by Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR.