Ojjeh hints at full Indy programme


Following today's announcement that Fernando Alonso is to contest the Indy 500 next month, McLaren co-owner Mansour Ojjeh has admitted that the company could begin a full IndyCar programme.

The team first went to Indianapolis in 1970 at the behest of Goodyear. While Chris Amon chose to withdraw from the event beforehand, Denny Hulme was burned in a practice crash, meaning that Peter Revson and Carl Williams were drafted in.

A year later and the British team had a far more serious contender, the M16, Revson finishing second after taking pole.

1972 saw Mark Donohue win in the Team Penske prepared M16B, the American joined by Johnny Rutherford for the 1973 event. Though Rutherford claimed pole he could only manage ninth in the race while Donohue crashed.

A year later (1974) saw the first win, with Rutherford, who went on to finish second in 1975 before winning again in 1976.

For 1977 the M24 was introduced, and while the team went on to win other events on the calendar further success at Indianapolis eluded McLaren and at the end of 1979 they ended their Indy programme.

Speaking today however, Ojjeh admitted that the Woking team could revive its Indy programme, though he insists that no firm decision has yet been made.

"I'm pleased and proud that we're about to embark on a new IndyCar era for McLaren, this time with Andretti Autosport and Honda," he said. "The Indy 500 is the only IndyCar race we'll be entering this year, but we may possibly repeat that in years to come and it's just possible that we may even run a full-works McLaren IndyCar operation at some point in the future. We'll see.

"Equally, we may potentially enter the Le Mans 24 Hours again some time," he added, "we won it outright in 1995 with our iconic McLaren F1 GTR - but to be clear we have absolutely no definite plans to do so at this stage."

Interestingly, it was mainly Honda executives who lined up for the official announcement photograph, suggesting that this is more about a PR exercise, especially for the Japanese manufacturer, in the wake of its woeful F1 return, as opposed to the first stage of an IndyCar return.

Indeed, one would think that the Woking outfit would want to sort out its F1 woes before seeking fresh challenges.

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Published: 12/04/2017
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