Alonso eyes Bathurst go
Motivated by F1 superstar Fernando Alonso’s interest in the Bathurst 1000, Supercars is looking at reducing testing restrictions on big-name foreign drivers to make it easier for them to contest The Great Race as wild cards.
Auto Action has learned that moves are underway to remove test time and tire allocation limits on internationals who sign-up to race in the annual October classic.
Walkinshaw Andretti United co-owner Ryan Walkinshaw has re-confirmed that Alonso, who has ties to the team through co-owner and McLaren racing boss Zak Brown, is keen to contest the Bathurst 1000 from next year.
However, in the final instalment of an extended interview (see ‘Up Front With Foges’ on pages 20-23), Walkinshaw makes it clear that Alonso will only undertake a wild card with sufficient backing and testing.
“He’s definitely interested,” Walkinshaw declared. “That’s a real potential opportunity, pending the business case making sense. Just like all these things, it’s going to come down to us making sure that everyone’s happy and that we have the support from sponsors and the category.
“But the interest is definitely there. Zak has spoken to Fernando many times about it and it’s definitely something we’d like to do.”
As well as Alonso, through its Andretti Autosport co-ownership, WAU would be interested in running wild card entries for the likes of IndyCar stars Alex Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti.
|Every race series wants Alonso due to his global popularity|
But, again, it would need to stack up financially and also with sufficient testing to allow the visitors to adapt to the quirks of Supercars, which have humbled many accomplished internationals due to lack of practice.
Along with WAU, DJR Team Penske has also been campaigning behind-the-scenes for testing restrictions on high-profile drivers from overseas series to be lifted.
Team Penske’s Aussie IndyCar star Will Power and teammates Simon Pagenaud and Joseph Newgarden, plus Acura IMSA sports car aces Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya, are all keen to try the Bathurst 1000.
Top teams want extra test days and tire allocations for at least rookie internationals on top of the three official test days and limited rookie running allowed under the current rules.
More test days and additional tires will allow international stars like Alonso and Power to get familiar with driving a Supercar before being thrown into the Bathurst 1000.
Walkinshaw hinted that testing and tire concessions were being considered by the Supercars Commission, especially since Alonso’s interest was confirmed.
“I’m sure they would be keen,” he said. “Allow[ing] top drivers, that would definitely add value, [with] the opportunity to have enough testing and so on so they wouldn’t embarrass themselves.
“Time in the car is obviously going to be critical to attracting people like Fernando, but we’ll work that out eventually and, hopefully, it’ll make sense. If it doesn’t, then that’s part of the business case stacking up.
“But I have full confidence that we have the right people around Supercars and in our team to try to make it make sense if it can.”
According to Walkinshaw, WAU would only be looking to run Alonso in the Bathurst 1000 and hadn’t considered whether he’d be partnered with one of the team’s regular drivers – whoever they may be next year – or another international star.
Supercars chief executive Sean Seamer was non-committal about freeing up testing opportunities for overseas aces.
“We obviously want to encourage as many drivers as possible to come and compete at Bathurst, or any landmark event for that matter,” Seamer told AA. “If the Commission needs to consider revised testing parameters to encourage that, I’m sure they will.” Auto Action