He was, by his own admission, 'having a ball' at the 2011 Goodwood Festival of Speed earlier this month, was Dario Franchitti, as he joined in with the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of arguably the greatest race in the world – the legendary Indianapolis 500.
Franchitti is, of course, a two-time winner at the historic Brickyard – in 2007 and 2010, for Andretti Green and Chip Ganassi Racing respectively, describing each of the victories as career-defining moments – and as he found himself surrounded by some of the most iconic cars ever to have competed in the race on his first visit to the Festival, he confessed to being something akin to the proverbial kid in a sweet shop.
“I am having a ball!” enthused the Scot, speaking to Crash.net
as he clambered behind the wheel of not only IndyCars but some of the most successful sportcars in history, too. “I am having such a good time. I've just been getting used to the climb a little bit and am having a good time trying all these different cars. The [Porsche] 917/30 was just fabulous, just brilliant.
“The IndyCars are tough here, because they're not really set-up to turn left or brake or anything. Those are pretty tricky to drive up the hill, so I was just trying to keep it between the grass, to be honest!
“The cars are all different in their own way. I really enjoyed the 917 just because of the power of the thing, and it's a car I've always dreamed of driving. I got to drive a Lotus 25, too, and that was amazing. It's such a small little F1 car. I got to drive the Lotus 30, which I have some experience of driving, and that was tricky up the hill because it's not designed to really do that.”
Moving closer to the present day, Franchitti also thrilled fans by taking to the hill in 'something more familiar' in the shape of team-mate Scott Dixon's Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara-Honda – a car that he had promised to give 'some serious abuse' – whilst he paused to offer his thoughts on his Indianapolis triumphs, leaving little doubt that a third success in the race is right up there at the very top of his wish list.
“Indy is a huge event in the US and in the world,” underlined the defending IndyCar Series Champion and current championship leader. “The fact that we've brought a bit of it over here for the centennial is pretty cool. Obviously, having tried to win it and put a lot of effort into that, when you finally do win it, it means such a lot and then winning it again... It's such a difficult race to win that it really gets under your skin, and I love it – I love everything about it.”
Meanwhile, Franchitti was honoured at Goodwood with the presentation of the Sir Malcolm Campbell Memorial Trophy, bestowed annually upon an individual or group for excellence within motorsport. The 38-year-old was awarded the accolade in honour of his performance last season, during which he successfully defended his 2009 IndyCar Series crown and prevailed at Indianapolis for a second time.
“Over the last decade, Dario has established a reputation as one of the world's leading racing drivers,” stated MSA General Secretary Rob Jones, “and it was only right that we recognise his contribution to the reputation of British motorsport by awarding him the Sir Malcolm Campbell Memorial Trophy.”