Fernando Alonso racing at Indy is awesome for everyone involved. Now that we have that settled there was a small piece of information that McLaren shareholder Mansour Ojjeh almost let slipped through the cracks. Ojjeh revealed that McLaren would be open to racing in IndyCar full-time and in the near future.
McLaren Supreme Leader, Zak Brown, echos those sentiments. In fact he is very serious about returning the McLaren brand to American open wheel racing. McLaren was a major IndyCar player in the 70’s, unfortunately ending their involvement in 1979. Mr. Brown is keen to bring McLaren back to IndyCar.
“It’s ultimately very early days in my time at McLaren,” Brown said. “One of the things that got me excited about McLaren is its long rich history, obviously in Formula 1, but then its history winning Indianapolis three times, winning Le Mans, Can-Am, Formula 5000, the list goes on; and while (Formula 1) will remain our number one focus in our motorsport galaxy, we have some exciting places that I think, we think, the shareholders think we should revisit over time.
We have three criteria: One, we need to make sure we can be competitive; two, that it’s commercially viable, and three, it fits out brand,” he said. “I think the Indy 500 ticks all those boxes, and I think IndyCar ultimately ticks all those boxes. We’re a fan of IndyCar; we think it’s a great form of motorsport. We’ve done it before. And if we can tick all three of those boxes, in the future, IndyCar would definitely be something we would consider.”
There is one potential fly in the McLaren IndyCar ointment, the F1 team. Brown wants to sort out the woes currently plaguing the F1 team before any other expansion.
“However, we’ve got big challenges on the Formula 1 front, so we need to be getting that right and winning races before we set out in lots of other adventures,” Brown said. “[The] Indy 500 was something that I thought would potentially be on the cards in 2018. Due to our circumstances and small window of opportunity, (we) saw a window of opportunity for 2017 that quite frankly we didn’t see six months ago.”
While it might be some time before we see a competitive McLaren F1 team, McLaren is seriously thinking about IndyCar. Their focus may be on F1 and their customer GT4 and GT3 teams but they definitely got IndyCar on the brain.
“I think that’s a long way down the road,” Brown added. “The automotive company is a sister company. Automotive has its own racing programs; it’s in GT3 and GT4 now. I don’t want to speak too much on their behalf, but don’t think being an engine supplier is on strategy with (our) current thinking. And so, I think from a McLaren Automotive standpoint, they’d be less likely to be an engine supplier as much as (focusing on) racing their makes and models in sports car racing.”
IndyCar is currently looking for a 3rd engine supplier. Could this be the smoke to the fire of a potential announcement sooner than Mr. Brown would have you believe? Unlikely, but there is definitely something going on, stay tuned.
This all feels like McLaren is almost internally cursing their F1 team. It feels like McLaren is pumped to race in IndyCar but can’t because the F1 team is in such disarray. I really hope McLaren and Honda (mostly Honda) get their shit together. Not because I like the team (which I do) but because the prospect of a traditional F1 heavy hitter coming stateside and joining IndyCar is hugely exciting. McLaren mixing it up with Ganassi, Andretti and Penske, HELL YEAH! Plus if it ends up being a successful venture more F1 teams might follow suit. Mercedes has a winning history at Indy and Red Bull is willing to sponsor anything with wheels that goes fast. How epic would that make IndyCar? That would surely take them back to the glory days and then some.