As was rumoured several weeks ago, albeit in completely different circumstances, Alex Tagliani will replace Enrique Bernoldi in the second Conquest Racing entry for this weekend's Detroit Indy Grand Prix.
The Canadian's return to competition for the first time since the Long Beach Champ Car finale had been tipped at any of the recent rounds as it was suggested that the struggling Bernoldi may have been replaced on both performance and financial grounds, but it finally took an injury to the Brazilian for Tagliani to get his chance.
Bernoldi initially injured the thumb on his left hand in a spin caused by suspension failure at Infineon Raceway last weekend. He fought through the pain to make the race but, after two practice sessions on the bumpy Belle Isle street course in Detroit, decided that driving was causing too much strain on the injured digit.
“I couldn't give my all today because of my left hand," the former F1 pilot admitted, "I was turning into the pits with just one hand on the steering wheel and was unable to do my best.
“The track is bumpy and it was really hard on my hand. I hate having to miss a race, but I prefer leaving the car to Alex this weekend while I rest my hand in order for it to get better.”
Team owner Eric Bachelart admitted that being able to bring a veteran of Tagliani's standing into the cockpit was a boost for Conquest, even if the opportunity had come in difficult circumstances.
“It's unfortunate what happened to Enrique in Sonoma last week but, on the other hand, I'm happy to be welcoming Alex into the team," the ex-pat Belgian said, "Obviously, it will be a big challenge for him as he will not get that much time in the car before the race, but Alex has a lot of experience, especially on street courses, and he's raced here in the past as well. I think he will be able to adapt quickly to his new racing environment and it will be interesting to see how he does this weekend.”
Tagliani will get just 30 minutes of practice on Saturday morning before heading into the IRL's quirky road course qualifying session, and then another half-hour on Sunday before the race. He will have the advantage of having raced at Belle Isle Park previously, however – albeit on a slightly different course configuration in two CART events in 2000 and 2001.
“I can't explain just how happy I am to be helping Conquest Racing this weekend, and to get my first start in the IndyCar Series,” the Canadian admitted, "This will be a great opportunity for me to show what I can do. I'm aware that it will not be easy for me coming in at the last minute and learning a new car in a new racing series, but I'm definitely motivated on doing my best and helping Conquest this weekend.”