Jimmie Johnson, Fernando Alonso ready to have some fun in Bahrain

(Greg Engle)

Seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson will get his first taste of action in a Formula 1 car, and he’ll go halfway around the world for the opportunity.

In the same session at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso of Spain will test his skills in one of Johnson’s road course cars.

“It’s our back-up car from the (Charlotte) Roval event,” Johnson said. “The way the timing worked out, it worked out well, we figured we would have a road course car freshly prepped and ready to go. We kicked around other dates where we were going to swap cars and (thought about) somewhere in the U.S.

“The opportunity in Bahrain developed, and just made a lot of sense. Obviously, it’s just something really different, and that was of importance to me. Let’s do something different, and let’s truly get time in each other’s cars.”

The No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet has already left for Bahrain in a container. Johnson will attend the F1 season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Nov. 25 before heading to Bahrain for the car swap a week later.

“Immediately after the Roval race, we needed to get the container packed and put that on a ship, and the ship has arrived in Dubai, and there are a few more stops that it needs to make,” Johnson said. “But it should arrive in Bahrain probably a week before the event takes place and will be transferred over to the race track

“And then our guys will get there probably a day or two in advance and start unpacking, unloading and getting the pit stall set-up and everything up and running. And then it’s got to come all the way back, obviously, after that.”

Alan Gustafson, Chase Elliott’s crew chief in the Cup series, will lead the Hendrick Motorsports team in Bahrain.

Alonso is just as excited by the opportunity as Johnson is.

“Well, the first thing I think is going to be to have fun,” Alonso told reporters in Phoenix via Skype from Brazil, site of this weekend’s F1 race. “I think we all love racing, any type of racing, and to test for the very first time a NASCAR car with the huge following and all the repercussions that NASCAR has in the world of motorsports… I want to experience that, and I want to have that opportunity in life, and it’s happening now in a couple of weeks’ time.”

Greg Engle