WTF: is Fernando Alonso going to race at the Bathurst 1000?
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This is a mightily long bow to draw, and even now as the keys of my laptop ping under my fingertips, the whole premise of this article is getting stranger and stranger. But, please bare with me.
He's regarded as one of the biggest stars of Formula 1, and question marks surround the future of former champion Fernando Alonso.
After a ... uhh ... turbulent 2017 season with McLaren, Alonso's profile saw an ironic rise. Though his cars had an uncanny knack of imploding without rhyme or reason, the Alonso brand saw growth as more and more people climbed on his bandwagon and what was clearly a form of internal fight that was unfolding behind the scenes.
Alonso retires from a free practice session in Canada 2017. Photo / Getty Images
And sometimes in plain sight, of course. We know the story.
At the height of the 'war', Alonso and McLaren brokered a deal through former engine suppliers Honda for the Spaniard to drive at the 2017 Indy 500 at the expense of missing the iconic Monaco Grand Prix. And he nearly won.
It kicked off a side narrative of wondering what blue-chip international events Alonso might race in next. He's already done the Daytona 24 Hours, the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Toyota is locked in later in the year, and maybe, just maybe, there are plans for him to visit Mount Panorama too.
This was a blue-sky thought a few friends had a few months ago, but certain news developments over the last week brought the idea back into the forefront. And most of it connects to the revised Walkinshaw Andretti United squad.
The team was born out of what used to be known as the Holden Racing Team, following buy-ins from IndyCar Series team owner Michael Andretti and McLaren Formula 1 boss Zak Brown. With Holden backing out of giving them 'factory' status backing last year, the Walkinshaw squad are at a crossroads on what their future identity will be.
But there's little doubt that international connections are embraced. Andretti has said in interviews that the team would consider running a wildcard entry at the Bathurst 1000 with some international drivers. And you don't need to dig too deep into the current Andretti or McLaren driver list to find some seriously high-quality drivers.
Heck, just recently defending British Touring Car Championship winner Ashley Sutton got to have a skid of one at Winton Raceway.
The first bit of news was that Brown will be skipping the Japanese Grand Prix to attend the Bathurst 1000. That's a slightly bigger deal than skipping class before lunch break — similar to Alonso missing Monaco, it's cause for a raised eyebrow or two. Speaking to Speedcafe.com, he also said he'd probably hang around for the Gold Coast 600 and possibly another event late in the championship.
Brown's main reasoning for wanting to be there is that Bathurst was a 'must do' event — and that's pretty believable given that he's a long-time follower of the Supercars. He even owns one; Garth Tander and Nick Percat's 2011 race-winning VE Commodore. Which brings me to point two.
Following the news that Brown was attending Bathurst was another article that Fernando Alonso was scheduled to test the team owner's Bathurst-winning Commodore at Motorland Aragon Circuit in Spain last year (yes, a fully liveried Commodore Supercar lives in Europe. Pretty cool, eh).
I say 'was' because the test was cancelled after the car ran out of juice.
The tight proximity of story timing is tantilizing, but most probably simply a result of media interviews taking place in the build-up to this weekend's Melbourne Grand Prix. Likewise, we're yet to hear anything on the matter from Alonso himself.
But still, how incredibly epic would it be to see Fernando in a Supercar, ripping around the mountain. He would need to give up the Japanese Grand Prix slot, since it always clashes with Bathurst. But no matter, his old friend Jenson spends a lot of time in Japan these days.
Maybe he'd be happy to keep the seat warm.
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