Jacques Villeneuve could be planning to ditch his US racing ambitions and throw his lot in with the Australian V8 Supercars series as he works out how to spend the twilight years of his career.
The Canadian, who won the F1 world title with Williams in 1997, has contested two rounds of this year's V8 series as stand-in for the injured Greg Murphy and, despite struggling to get on the pace with limited track time, admits that he would seriously consider a full-time ride 'down under' even if it means calling time on his increasingly-frustrated bid to rejoin the NASCAR ranks.
Now 41, Villeneuve has started on the back row in each of his V8 outings, and has one more round with the crack Kelly Racing/PepsiMax Crew squad pencilled in as he stands in for Kiwi Murphy, who has been sidelined by a back injury, but insists that he is enjoying the experience enough to seek out a bigger role from next season.
“I would love to,” the Canadian told Melbourne's Sunday Age
, newspaper, “The racing is definitely good enough that it would be exciting to do that for two years. I'm happiest when I'm racing, and I'm not frustrated at all [by the results]. It's a big challenge. It's what happens when you jump from car to car and series. You'll never be at your best and you just have to accept it.”
Villeneuve remains convinced that, given more time behind the wheel of his Holden Commodore, he would find the time he needs to improve and begin mixing it with the midfield and frontrunners.
“They're tough beasts,” he explained of the unique V8 Supercars, “There are a few inherent things in the rules that make the cars very different to anything else to drive, [so] to adapt and get up to speed is a big shock. The thing with these cars is that they just drive differently. It's still a car with wheels and brakes and gears, but everything you know, you almost have to throw away.
"It's a little bit like driving a very heavy go-kart. Driving one for the first time at Townsville was too much, [but] it's becoming a little more natural now. I'm becoming a lot more comfortable with the car."
Despite having been frustrated in his bid to convert to the NASCAR scene since being forced out of F1 back in 2006, Villeneuve has been limited to a handful of road course outings in recent years after struggling to find the backing for a full-time ride. Even though his trips to Australia have opened his eyes to the possibilities that exist in V8s, the Canadian is not prepared to put all his eggs in one basket just yet, but concedes that he is already thinking of eschewing his US dreams.
“If a team expressed genuine interest, I would look at it more
than seriously,” he confirmed, “It's something I'd really, really consider. It's a great series. If I were
to do it next year, then I'd definitely want to move to Australia.
"It's good fun. It's good racing. The V8s are right up there as one of the best national series in the world because they have a big international credibility - a little bit because of the Bathurst 1000, but also because they're so tough to drive competitively. And the level of the drivers here is quite high - the top guys here race hard!”