Alonso, Sato have helped IndyCar internationally, says Miles
Mark Miles, CEO of IndyCar’s parent company Hulman & Co. says that this year’s Indy 500 featuring a victory for Takuma Sato and a starring role by Fernando Alonso have boosted the series’ presence on the world stage.
Two-time Formula 1 world champion Alonso missed the Monaco Grand Prix to race a McLaren-backed Andretti Autosport-Honda in the Indianapolis 500, and he qualified fifth, led 27 laps and was in the hunt for victory until his engine let go 20 laps before the end.
Thereafter, Sato was Andretti’s main hope, and he held off three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves to take a historic victory in the 101st running of the Memorial Day Weekend classic.
Asked if Alonso’s presence had helped raise IndyCar’s profile around the world, Miles told Motorsport.com: “I would say in Europe it helped a great deal, I can’t quantify that yet but it comes at a good time, when we’re talking about future media rights.
“And then in the same year to have Takuma Sato light up Japan… We really had a good year internationally and I think that will continue. What form will it take? I believe it will mean opportunities for better exposure in the media.”
Miles said he hoped Alonso’s performance and the admiration he gained for even attempting it would lure others, although he acknowledged there would always be sponsorship and partnership hurdles to overcome.
He said: “We’ll see if the idea of crossing over is possible and appealing to others – not just Formula 1 drivers but NASCAR or whatever. Everyone has their commercial arrangements stuff to deal with.
“But certainly people saw it was a formidable challenge for Alonso, and that he handled it well and that it was a good thing for him.”
IndyCar-F1 communication lines open
Former Formula One Group CEO Bernie Ecclestone was known to be dismissive of IndyCar, and even last April admitted that were he still running F1 he’d have done everything he could to prevent Alonso from competing at Indy this year.
Miles, while not specifically naming Ecclestone, admitted that since Liberty Media took over control of Formula 1 in 2016, the relationship between F1 and IndyCar had become far more cordial.
“I feel like there will be an open line of communication and collaboration with the Liberty folks,” he said, “and that clearly wasn’t true previously.
“I think there’s a lot we can learn from each other,” he said, “and how formal or informal that is remains to be seen. Jay Frye [IndyCar’s president of competition] was at COTA to talk about windscreens and halos and I’m sure on lots of levels there’s room for ongoing cooperation.”
Frye was also in Austin to discuss with Formula 1 race control experts what sort of technology could help IndyCar deal with full-course cautions without punishing frontrunners.
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