Fernando Alonso makes Indy 500 'fast nine' for pole position battle

Fernando Alonso
Alonso is missing the Monaco Grand Prix to make a one-off appearance at the Indy 500 on 28 May

Fernando Alonso will compete for pole position at the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday after making it through the first qualifying day seventh fastest.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver produced an impressive performance in his first competitive session on a US oval track.

Alonso, 35, is among the 'fast nine' who will dispute pole on Sunday.

The Spanish driver's average speed for his four-lap qualifying run on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway was 230.034mph.

American Ed Carpenter, who ran later in the day, was fastest at 230.468mph. The shootout for pole is due to begin at 22:00 BST.

The perils of racing on high-speed American oval tracks were emphasised as former F1 driver Sebastien Bourdais suffered multiple fractures to his pelvis and a fracture to his right hip in a high-speed crash.

The Frenchman, 38, was fastest after the first two laps of his four-lap qualifying run but lost control exiting Turn One, smashed head-on into the barriers and rolled before coming to a rest.

IndyCar said in a statement that Bourdais was due to have surgery on his pelvis on Saturday evening at the Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital.

Dale Coyne Racing's team owner said in a statement on Saturday: "Sebastien is in good hands here at the hospital with the staff and now we just wait for him to recover."

Bourdais, who drove for F1 team Toro Rosso in 2008 and 2009, had been "awake and alert" immediately after the accident and had not lost consciousness.

Drivers are supposed to get several attempts at setting a time on the first day of qualifying at Indy, but a rain storm in the morning delayed running and in the end the session was cut short so that each driver only had one four-lap attempt.

Sebastien Bourdais
Bourdais came 19th in the last IndyCar race in Arizona

Speaking before the conclusion of the session, Alonso said: "It was intense, definitely. With the weather conditions, we only had this attempt, so that creates a little bit of stress on everyone.

"I think we did OK, and put the laps together but I think there is more to come from the car. We have a little bit more speed than we showed today so hopefully we can put everything together.

"It felt difficult, it felt tricky. You are going very fast, you feel the degradation of the tyres. Lap one and lap four are very different in terms of the balance and you need to keep your concentration very high every corner, every lap.

"I need to keep learning, keep progressing. With this being my first qualifying, I saw there were things I could do differently, the preparation of the tyres, the laps, the consistency of the laps. I am happy with today's performance but I think tomorrow will be better."

Of the Britons, Ed Jones was quickest in 10th place, followed by Max Chilton in 12th, Jay Howard in 22nd, Jack Harvey in 25th and Pippa Mann in 30th.

How does qualifying work?

Qualifying runs over two days this weekend, with Saturday defining the 'fast nine' drivers who compete for pole position on Sunday.

The remaining 24 drivers also qualify again on Sunday, but only to determine the grid positions from 10th to 33rd. Qualifying pace is determined by a driver's average speed over a four-lap run.

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