McLaren IndyCar
Fernando Alonso of Spain, driver of the #29 Chandon Honda drives during Carb day for the 101st Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway in Indianapolis, Indiana, May 26, 2017. Chris Graythen/Getty Images

McLaren are taking their return to the Indianapolis 500 in the IndyCar Series in 2019 much more seriously than their first outing in 2017, when they partnered with Andretti Racing to field a car for Fernando Alonso.

The Woking-based team will be running under their own "McLaren Racing" banner when they return to the Brickyard in 2019 and have hired Force India F1 Team’s former deputy team principal Bob Fernley to oversee the operation.

The 51-year-old quit the Formula 1 team in August immediately after the Lawrence Stroll-led takeover of Force India. After the team had gone into administration, they are now known as Racing Point Force India.

Fernley will lead McLaren’s return to the Indy 500 and will also evaluate the feasibility of the Woking-based team making a full-time entry into the American motor racing series in 2020 or beyond. CEO Zak Brown, to whom Fernley will report to, has admitted the team are considering the possibility of a racing the entire season in the not so distant future.

Fernando Alonso, who is leaving the McLaren F1 team at the end of the 2018 season, will make his second outing at the Brickyard after making an impression in his first outing in 2017. The Spaniard, who won Rookie of the Year, after qualifying in fifth place and leading 27 laps before mechanical failure ended his race 21 laps from the end.

The double F1 world champion is desperate to win motorsport’s fabled Triple Crown and only has the Indy 500 race to win after having already conquered the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 hours of Le Mans.

Fernley admits the Indy 500 will be a massive challenge, but McLaren do have plenty of time to prepare unlike in 2017 when the plan was put in place just a couple of months before the race, which happens in May.

“Heading back to The Brickyard will be a very special experience for me and I am proud to be leading this McLaren project and team,” Fernley said after his appointment, as quoted on the team’s official site. “The 500 is a hell of a challenge and we have incredibly strong competitors to overcome if we’re to be successful. We will need to prepare well for the month of May and that work starts now.”

McLaren CEO Brown revealed recently they will run the Indy 500 program separate from their F1 activities. The staff will comprise of people not part of their F1 program, which has struggled in recent years. He is certain that Fernley is the perfect appointment to lead their bid to win one of the most iconic races in motorsports.

“Bob is a fantastic operator and someone I respect greatly. His experience and leadership will be essential for us on this project,” Brown said. “He is particularly talented at putting effective teams together and extracting maximum performance with finite resources. The Indy 500 is no easy race and Bob’s is a key role, so I’m delighted he’s on board.”