Sato prevails in epic Indy 500, Alonso retires with engine failure

Henry Kelsall

Takuma Sato took a highly emotional win in the Indianapolis 500 to beat Helio Castroneves in a thrilling duel, as Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso retired with 29 laps to go whilst in the fight for the lead.

An action packed race punctuated by cautions and a red flag saw an 11 lap sprint to the finish, initially lead by Max Chilton. The Brit had played a strategic miracle that got him into the lead fight before a late race caution for teammate at Ganassi Charlie Kimball brought him on a level playing field with the others. The final restart came after a late race collision with Oriol Servia spinning into James Davison and led to Will Power, James Hinchcliffe and Josef Newgarden getting caught up in a chain reaction and eliminating them all from the race. Davison had been Sebastien Bourdais replacement and was also a contender for the win.

Castroneves charged from 4th to the lead as the laps counted down, passing rookie Ed Jones, Chilton and then Sato. But with 5 to go Sato came back at Castroneves, and despite the three times winners best attempts he could not get past the Japanese driver. Sato had come oh so close to winning the race back in 2012 before a last lap crash trying to pass Dario Franchitti. This time he prevailed in an epic fight and was a hugely popular winner.

The Andretti cars looked to be the strongest contenders for the win, with all four in the top four at one stage of the race. The early stages saw Alex Rossi and Alonso duelling for the lead, the Spaniard well and truly in with a shot at winning the race. A horrible crash between Jay Howard and Scott Dixon, with Dixon’s car launching into the air and breaking in half on landing on the barriers, brought out the red flags as Alonso lead. Dixon had complained of his car getting lose early on but was still very much in the hunt before his horrible crash on lap 53.

The four Andretti’s of Sato, Rossi, Alonso and Ryan Hunter-Reay duelled it out up front for a lot of the race. A stellar pitstop for Hunter-Reay in the latter half of the race saw him hold a 3.5 second lead at one stage which grew to 3.7 before a caution for debris. Ryan’s chances of winning ended when his Honda engine let go, causing a caution which saw Rossi have fuelling issues in his pitstops and dropping him out of contention. Rossi though did fight up to 6th at the end and was left rueing a highly likely repeat win for the 2016 Indy champion.

That caution left Alonso and Sato as the two Andretti’s that could win and Alonso despite dropping towards the tail of the top ten was fighting his way back to the front, before his Honda engine blew with just 29 laps to go. The Spaniard earned a standing ovation from the crowd as they saluted a new Indy hero. He says he will come back. And he probably will win it one day too.

After the Servia induced pileup we saw the thrilling duel for the lead that ultimately saw Sato prevail and become an Indy legend, and it could not have happened to a nicer guy. One of the greatest races in Indianapolis history saw a deserving winner, and a man who will win make his debut. Fernando Alonso and Takuma Sato were undoubtedly the stars of an amazing show.

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