June 29, 2006

Alonso sees Indianapolis as his toughest test

By Steve Keating

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Renault's Fernando Alonso is
bracing himself for his toughest test of the year in Sunday's
U.S. Grand Prix.

After winning the last four races, and six out of nine so
far, Formula One's youngest champion leads Ferrari's Michael
Schumacher by a hefty 25 points.

But the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has never been kind to
the 24-year-old Spaniard, who has yet to finish in four visits
to the 'Brickyard' and remains cautious about his chances of
ending his streak of bad luck.

"Indianapolis for sure will be the most difficult race of
the championship for us," Alonso told a news conference at the
circuit on Thursday.

"The car was never competitive here, we don't know why, but
we hope this year changes that. We have been competitive
everywhere else.

"We expect a good performance here but we have some doubts
for sure."

Alonso's bid to end his American drought ended before the
race start last year when Michelin-equipped teams pulled out
due to concerns over the safety of their tires.

In 2004, Alonso completed just eight laps when he was
forced out because of an accident while retiring with
mechanical failures in 2003 and 2001.

This year, the Spaniard arrives as the dominant force in
Formula One with a run of 15 successive podium finishes.

If Alonso triumphs in Indianapolis, he will join a group of
just five drivers to have won five races in a row -- Alberto
Ascari (Italy), Schumacher, Jack Brabham (Australia), Jim Clark
and Nigel Mansell (both Britain).


Renault's reliability has been no less impressive, Alonso
having not retired from a race in more than a year. His last
time was in Canada in June 2005.

A start-to-finish win last weekend at the Canadian Grand
Prix, where he had also never stood on the podium, is sure to
have provided the Spaniard with a jolt of confidence as he
looks to add another high-profile victory to his list of

Once again, Renault's main challenge is expected to come
from former champions Ferrari who have captured five of the six
U.S. Grands Prix staged at Indianapolis since 2000.

Schumacher has crossed first here four times, including
last year's fiasco when just six cars took the start after the
14 with Michelin tires withdrew after the parade lap.

Bitter American motor racing fans can expect a more
competitive race this year with Alonso promising a better show
and Schumacher needing a victory to keep his fading
championship hopes alive.

"I think after what happened last year everyone is
expecting a good show and we will put on a good show for them,"
promised Alonso. "We want to go on the track tomorrow and enjoy
the weekend."