Fernando Alonso’s decision to temporarily ditch Formula One failed to pay dividends as engine failure forced him out of a crash-disrupted Indianapolis 500.
The Spaniard, who opted to skip the Monaco Grand Prix to compete at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway circuit, had spent time leading but found himself slightly off the pace when his car let him down with 22 laps remaining.
Japanese driver Takuma Sato eventually took the chequered flag, with Helio Castroneves second and Dubai-born Briton Ed Jones completing the podium.
A series of yellow and red flags affected the 101st running of the race, with favourite Scott Dixon extremely lucky to escape injury following a horrific-looking smash just after the 50-lap mark.
Starting fifth on the grid, rookie Alonso was strongly fancied to win.
The two-time F1 champion eased himself into the race, playing it safe as he initially dropped back a few places inside the opening 10 laps.
He quickly shook off the timid start and edged ahead of team-mate Alexander Rossi on Lap 37 to lead the contest for the first time.
While the Spaniard was looking comfortable, 2008 winner Dixon was struggling and he crashed out on Lap 53 following a horrendous collision with Jay Howard.
In attempting to let 2014 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay pass, Englishman Howard was forced wide and hit the perimeter wall and then careered into the path of Dixon.
The impact sent Dixon’s car airborne before it landed on the safety barrier and came to rest with three tyres missing and the back end completely destroyed.
Miraculously both drivers walked away unscathed, although the incident prompted a red flag and a delay while the wreckage was cleared from the track.
It had been a calm race up until that point but the 33-driver field was soon further reduced.
Indiana-born Conor Daly crashed into a wall to take himself out of contention, with the impact causing debris to fly into the path of Jack Harvey and send the British driver spinning off the track.
Engine failure then accounted for the end of Hunter-Reay’s race while he was in second behind Alonso.
Despite dropping back again, Alonso was looking well-placed to challenge before his race was prematurely ended with him holding the fastest average lap time.
A multi-car collision ended the hopes of another five drivers, before 40-year-old Sato, who had started the day one place ahead of Alonso on the grid in fourth, secured his win.
Alonso was disappointed to retire but said he had enjoyed being involved in the event.
“I felt the noise, the engine friction, and then I saw the smoke on the exhaust,” he told BT Sport.
“It’s a shame, I think we deserved at least to finish the race. Who knows which position we could’ve been?
“The whole day has been a very nice experience from the very beginning and I think the performance was good.
“This has been one of the best experiences in my career.”
* Press Association
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