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Heavy crash overshadows Alonso pole at Spa

Pietro Fittipaldi driver of the Dale Coyne Racing Honda IndyCar during practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series Phoenix Grand Prix at ISM Raceway on April 6, 2018 in Avondale, Arizona © Getty/AFP/File / Christian Petersen

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium, May 5 – Fernando Alonso’s Toyota TS050 Hybrid will start Saturday’s Spa Six Hours endurance race on the front row although qualifying was blighted by the spectacular crash of Brazilian rookie Pietro Fittipaldi.

Fittipaldi was airlifted to a Liege hospital by helicopter with “suspected fractures to both legs” after his DragonSpeed car swerved wildly coming out of a corner and smacked into a wall head on.

The 21-year-old Fittipaldi is the grandson of Emerson Fittipaldi, the two-time Formula 1 world champion and twice winner of the Indy 500.

A statement from motor racing’s governing body, the FIA, said Fittipaldi was “conscious at all times” and that “his condition is not life-threatening”.

The Brazilian had been scheduled to make his Indy 500 debut later this month with Dale Coyne Racing.

Alonso and his team-mates, Kazuki Nakajima of Japan and Switzerland’s Sebastien Buemi, were promoted to pole position after fuel level inconsistencies saw the Toyota No.7 car bumped to the back of the grid.

The trio of Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez and Mike Conway will instead start from the pit lane after their best lap of 1min 54.488sec, 0.379sec faster than Alonso’s Toyota team, was erased for running “with an incorrect declaration of fuel”.

Alonso is sixth in the Formula One drivers’ standings after four races for McLaren but takes part on Saturday in the Belgian leg of the World Endurance Championship with Toyota, the first of six endurance races on his agenda this season.

“My priority is to live the Le Mans experience. A huge race,” the Spaniard told Le Soir.

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The 2005 and 2006 F1 world champion is serious about his ambition of becoming only the second driver to complete motor racing’s triple crown of the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500 and Le Mans, after Britain’s Graham Hill.

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