Fernando Alonso: 'Unthinkable' to make pole shootout

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Fernando Alonso says reaching the 'Fast 9' qualifying shootout for the Indy 500 was an "unthinkable" achievement when he arrived in the U.S. at the start of the month.

The McLaren-Honda Andretti driver set a four-lap average of 230.034mph to conclude the first day of qualifying seventh and progress to Sunday's fight to claim pole position for the historic oval race on May 28. As a result, Alonso has become the first rookie driver since Carlos Munoz in 2013 to secure a spot in the top nine on 'Pole Day'.

When asked by reporters how he would have reacted if he was told that he would make the 'Fast 9' group after his first test day, Alonso replied: "Bye bye! Because it was unthinkable probably. Not because you don't trust yourself or whatever, but there are many little ingredients here which you need to put together to find the right recipe.

"There is the wind, the trim, how much you trim with only one shot is difficult. There is the high boost, you have only a few laps to test on 'Fast Friday' and today [Saturday] with the conditions changing every single lap. It's a happy surprise -- the whole week -- but we did nothing, so we need to start finding some more limits from Sunday onwards. I just want to be quicker."

Despite provisionally running within the top three on Saturday following his debut Indy 500 qualifying run, the Spaniard insists he did not get the most out of the car and believes he can find more speed in Sunday's pole shootout.

"I think the team did a fantastic job to put me in a position to be able to run 230[mph laps] in the average of the four laps," Alonso said. "I think there is still more to come, more potential in the car.

"I didn't maximise the potential of the car in lap three and lap four so I keep learning. Every day is a lesson, so today's [Saturday's] lessons hopefully I can put together for tomorrow [Sunday] and find more speed. When I close the visor, you have to be sure I will go for it."

Alonso attempts to go for pole in Sunday's 'Fast 9' group, with the session getting underway at 1700ET (2200BST).