Indy 500
Fernando Alonso pulls off the grid for the start of the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Fernando Alonso's quest to move within a Le Mans victory of emulating Graham Hill as only the second driver ever to complete motorsport's iconic triple crown suffered a blow on Sunday (28 May) as the two-time Formula One world champion was forced to retire in the latter stages of the Indianapolis 500.

Fastest rookie Alonso, excused from the Monaco Grand Prix in order to make his debut in the 101st edition of the world-famous oval race, gave a superb account of himself at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and led on several occasions before suffering engine failure while running in sixth on lap 179 of 200.

It was an all too familiar tale for the popular Spaniard, who has been continually frustrated by reliability issues in F1 with struggling McLaren-Honda. He will now return to regular duties at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal in a fortnight's time.

"Obviously it's disappointing not to finish the race because every race you compete, you want to be at the chequered flag," Alonso said. "But today that was not possible.

"The last two weeks have been a great experience. I came here basically to prove myself and to challenge myself. I know that I can be as quick as anyone in an F1 car; I didn't know if I can be as quick as anyone in an IndyCar."

In a frenetic finish to a typically hectic and lengthy affair strewn with yellow caution flags, Andretti Autosport's Takuma Sato, formerly of Jordan, BAR and Super Aguri, got the better of Helio Castroneves and held off the Brazilian veteran to become the first Japanese winner of the Indy 500.

Another former F1 driver, Max Chilton, led with seven laps to go but eventually had to settle for fourth behind Sato, Helio Castroneves and Dubai-born fellow Briton Ed Jones.

Earlier on in the race, there was a sense of overwhelming relief as pole-sitter Scott Dixon, who was robbed at gunpoint just hours after securing top billing last weekend, miraculously walked away unscathed from a truly horrific crash.

Jay Howard veered across the track after hitting the outside wall at turn one and collided with the 2008 winner's Chip Ganassi Racing car, which was launched high into the air before being essentially obliterated as it landed on the inside safety wall.

Both drivers were medically checked, cleared and released and such a terrifying incident led to proceedings being red flagged for 18 minutes as marshals worked to clear a huge amount of debris and repair the damage to the catch fence.

Another sizeable crash on lap 183 saw Josef Newgarden, James Hinchcliffe, Will Power, Oriol Servia and James Davison all eliminated. Buddy Lazier was taken to hospital with chest discomfort after careering into the wall at turn two.