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Barrichello confirms move to IndyCar

1 March 2012

"I am thrilled, it is something very new to me,” said Rubens Barrichello on Thursday at the press conference in his home town of Sao Paulo, in which he confirmed that he had signed with KV Racing Technology for a full season driving in the IZOD IndyCar Series alongside close friend Tony Kanaan.

"We are very excited to have both Rubens and Tony competing for our team in 2012," said team co-owner Jimmy Vasser. "Rubens is going to be a great addition."

A little over a month ago, the idea of F1 driver Rubens Barrichello in the cockpit of an IndyCar seemed like a nice close-season distraction. Everyone knew that it wouldn't come to anything. Yet from the very start, it was clear that Barrichello and IndyCar had fallen for each other in the biggest way possible. KV Racing Technology had to prise Barrichello out of the car just to let Tony Kanaan have a go.

“I was at Sebring when Rubens first got into an Indy car," said team co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven. "The smile when he got out of the car was a great moment and lasted for three days."

Fans, media and even other IndyCar Series drivers were clearly equally besotted with the possibility that one of the most popular and long-serving F1 drivers might be heading their way in 2012; and the confirmation that Barrichello would be team mates with Kanaan and EJ Viso in 2012 came at last in an official press conference on Thursday afternoon.

"The addition of Rubens and the return of Tony along with EJ, gives KVRT a very strong driver line-up and one I am sure can compete for podium finishes and race wins," said Vasser. "I would also like to thank all the sponsors for making this deal possible and KVRT General Manager Mark Johnson for his tireless work getting all the parties together."

Johnson revealed that "Kevin, Jimmy, myself and Rubens (with extensive encouragement from Tony) shook hands and said lets make this happen after the initial Sebring test," adding: "Every individual involved has given 150% effort over the last two weeks to insure we were able to push the deal over the finish line."

Today's press conference also revealed that Tony Kanaan would be back with KV Racing for two more years, having signed with the team initially at the start of 2011.

"I am very excited to be returning to KV Racing Technology not only with a two year deal but also to have Rubens Barrichello as my team mate,” said Kanaan himself. "We have always dreamed about racing together but never imagined it would actually happen and certainly not in the near future or in IndyCars."

"Tony once again demonstrated his leadership abilities and his proven ability to compete for wins and the championship," added Vasser.

Barrichello himself gave thanks to Kanaan for helping make this happen, and said that he was looking forward to a whole new experience - but agreed that despite all his years in F1, he would be back to starting as a beginner in 2012.

"With all my experience I will start as a rookie, but I think I will get better as the year progresses," he said. "My main thing is to be an addition to KV Racing Technology. They have been doing very well and Tony brought the team to a different level last year, so I hope with my contribution we can build on this and take the team to another level."

One of the biggest questions about Barrichello's involvement with the 2012 season was regarding the oval races, something that he had previously promised his wife Silvana he would not do.

But at the press conference in Sao Paulo, Barrichello confirmed that he would be taking part in all 16 rounds of the 2012 season in the #8 BMC-Embrase KV Racing car, including the oval events such as the Indianapolis 500 in May.

"Thanks to [Ruben's] kids who convinced his wife to do the whole season!!" the KV Racing team posted on Twitter, with Kevin Kalkhoven telling the press conference the full story of how Eduardo and Fernando had won their mother over to the idea over the last few weeks.

"You will get the greatest joy out of muscling that car around a short oval like [the Milwaukee Mile]," Ganassi driver Graham Rahal said to Barrichello on Twitter after hearing the news. "Awesome news for the sport that one of the greatest drivers ever [Rubens Barrichello] will be joining us. Welcome man!"

The other drivers in the series are looking forward to Barrichello making his series debut later this month at St Petersburg on March 25.

"He brings that international recognition," said reigning champion Dario Franchitti. "He ups the level of competition in the field yet again."

Helio Castroneves still remembers the one race he had with Barrichello in karts in 1988: "His passion is what stood out to me then, even when he didn't have the best equipment in F1."

IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard called the announcement "an exciting day for the IZOD IndyCar Series and a positive step to start 2012."

He continued: "We've said all along that one of the most important factors that will make the IZOD IndyCar Series successful is having the best drivers in the world, and there's not a person in the world who knows racing that wouldn't tell you that Rubens Barrichello is one of the greatest drivers of all time."

And of course Tony Kanaan, the man whose tweeted invitation to Barrichello to come try out the KV car kick-started the whole thing in January, is thrilled. Just as long as he doesn't end up following his 'brother' around the race track too often during the coming season, that is.

"I am looking forward to the start of the season, I think its going to be a very exciting year," he said.

Barrichello is one of the biggest names to move to IndyCar from the world of F1. The 39-year-old Brazilian driver has 322 Grand Prix starts over an unprecedented 19 consecutive seasons in F1 since his début in 1993, including 11 GP victories.

His most successful period in F1 was the six years that he spent at Ferrari alongside Michael Schumacher from 2000 to 2005 during which time he twice finished as runner-up in the world championship, but during his career he also competed for Jordan, Stewart, Honda and Brawn. The last two years have been spent at Williams F1, but the team announced in January that they were replacing Barrichello with his compatriot Bruno Senna for 2012.

Barrichello's signing is an important tonic for the IndyCar Series, which ended a promising 2011 season with the tragic events at Las Vegas that saw Dan Wheldon lose his life in the season finale.

The series also had to move on from the defection of its star name (in terms of media attention) Danica Patrick, who has moved to full-time stock car racing in NASCAR this year. But if Twitter is any measure of popularity then Barrichello with his 1.47m followers easily eclipses Patrick's 447k followers, illustrating just how much more worldwide interest in the sport Rubens will be bringing with him to IndyCar in 2012.


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