Only eight rookies have ever won the Indianapolis 500 - and that includes Ray Harroun, who won the inaugural race in 1911 - but, this year, some 13 newcomers will attempt to add their name to the list that includes Graham Hill, Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves

The biggest rookie contingent since 1997 will take its first laps around the famous 2.5-mile speedway this weekend, completing the mandatory orientation programme - based on a set of four phases of ten laps each, taken at increasing speeds - before the main business of practice and qualifying gets underway next week.

The rookie class is diverse, featuring drivers who have won at the track in the former Indy Pro Series - now renamed Indy Lights - as well as drivers who competed on the track's road course in Formula One and several who will entering the hallowed grounds for the first time. Then there's Graham Rahal, whose father, Bobby, won the 500 three years before the 19-year old was born.

British-born IPS champions Jay Howard and Alex Lloyd, as well as Jaime Camara and Hideki Mutoh, have all competed at Indianapolis before, lapping the oval at 190mph in the official IndyCar feeder series, but will now tackle it with an increase of 55mph under their right foot. Camara and Lloyd are also winners at the Brickyard, having triumphed in the 2005 and 2007 Freedom 100s respectively. Howard, meanwhile, finished second in the 2006 edition.

"It's obviously something I've been looking forward for a long time," the Briton, who graduated to the IndyCar Series full-time with Roth Racing this season, admitted, "The first 500 I went to, I was sitting in the grandstands, but the hair stands up on your arms, and you get goose pimples. You can't explain to anyone what it's like, and I can't imagine what it's going to be like actually sitting in the car racing. It's definitely going to be a nice new experience for me."

Fellow Briton Justin Wilson and Brazil's Enrique Bernoldi have driven portions of the oval before, during their F1 careers, but did so in the opposite direction to that used for the 500. However, Wilson is well aware that it is not just running anti-clockwise that will provide a test of his - and the Newman/Haas/Lanigan team's - abilities.

"There was a great deal of anticipation of going there and seeing the place [with F1]," he said, recalling his eighth-place finish in the USGP at Indianapolis in 2003, "You've heard so many things about [the venue], and you want to go and see it for yourself. You don't realise how big everything is until you get there. That pit complex, the size of the grandstands - it's like two walls on either side of the track.

"This year, it's a different deal altogether, just because of the history behind the 500. There's a lot of anticipation and the hope that we can do well. We just want to go there and get used to it. I've heard people say that it's basically four fast corners rather than an oval...."

The rookies, along with three drivers taking refresher courses, will have two days of practice to learn the intricacies of the circuit's four different corners before the track opens to all drivers on 6 May.

"From what I've been told, all you can see going down to Turn One flat out is the outside wall - and you're driving straight at it," Wilson continued, "Then, at the last minute, you throw it into the corner... It's just getting the confidence to turn in flat out, or nearly flat out. It's going to take a little bit of time.

"You don't want to wreck the car, and that's always the balance you're trying to trade off. You want to get up to speed, but you want to make sure that, if something happens, you're within your limits. You don't want it to catch you out. That's going to be the key - how fast you can get up to speed, but knowing that if the back steps out, you're in control."

After an impressive, if somewhat contentious, race on the Kansas oval last Sunday, EJ Viso will be one to watch at Indianapolis, but the Venezuelan may not be quite on top of his game on day one of rookie orientation on Sunday. The 23-year old HVM Racing pilot intends to compete in the 32nd running of the OneAmerica 500 Festival mini marathon in downtown Indianapolis the day before he begins his preparations for the 92nd running of the 'greatest spectacle in racing'.

"I'm not a professional runner, but I do run quite a lot for training purposes and I really enjoy it," Viso, who could be joined by Indy Lights points leader JR Hildebrand, explained, "I think that participating in the mini marathon is a great opportunity to spend some time with the people who will be watching the race in a few weeks.

"When I get to the part of the marathon course that is inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, those will be my first steps on the track, and I think it is fitting that I step foot on the grounds in this way. I've only done a couple of 10k races before, and I'll be taking it easy, not looking to set any records."

The list of Indianapolis 500 rookies taking part in the two-day orientation programme is completed by KV racing Technology duo Oriol Servia and Will Power, Champ Car veterans Ryan Hunter-Reay (Rahal Letterman Racing) and Mario Dominguez (Pacific Coast Motorsports), Dale Coyne Racing's F3 graduate Mario Moraes and St Petersburg winner Rahal. The American missed the season-opening oval round at Homestead and has just one such outing under his belt since his only previous oval experience, in Toyota Atlantics, while Dominguez will be getting his first taste of an IndyCar Dallara on Opening Day.

The latest entry list for the 92nd Indianapolis 500, including vacant seats, reads as follows:

2. AJ Foyt IV USA Vision Racing
3. Helio Castroneves BRA Team Penske
4. Vitor Meira BRA Panther Racing
5. Oriol Servia ESP KV Racing Technology*
6. Ryan Briscoe AUS Team Penske
7. Danica Patrick USA Andretti Green Racing
8. Will Power AUS KV Racing Technology/Team Australia*
9. Scott Dixon NZL Chip Ganassi Racing
10. Dan Wheldon GBR Chip Ganassi Racing
11. Tony Kanaan BRA Andretti Green Racing
12. Tomas Scheckter RSA Luczo Dragon Racing
14. Darren Manning GBR AJ Foyt Enterprises
15. Buddy Rice USA Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
16. Alex Lloyd GBR Rahal Letterman with Chip Ganassi*
17. Ryan Hunter-Reay USA Rahal Letterman Racing*
18. Bruno Junqueira BRA Dale Coyne Racing
19. Mario Moraes BRA Dale Coyne Racing
20. Ed Carpenter USA Vision Racing
21. TBA TBA Playa Del Racing#
22. TBA TBA Vision Racing
23. Milka Duno VZL Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
24. Jay Howard GBR Roth Racing*
25. Marty Roth CAN Roth Racing
26. Marco Andretti USA Andretti Green Racing
27. Hideki Mutoh JPN Andretti Green Racing*
33. EJ Viso VZL HVM Racing*
34. Jaime Camara BRA Conquest Racing*
36. Enrique Bernoldi BRA Conquest Racing*
41. Larry Foyt USA AJ Foyt Enterprises
44. Max Papis ITA Rubicon/Sam Schmidt Motorsports
67. Sarah Fisher USA Sarah Fisher Racing
77. TBA TBA Team Penske
83. TBA TBA Panther Racing
91. Buddy Lazier USA Hemelgarn Johnson
96. Mario Dominguez MEX Pacific Coast Motorsports*
98. TBA TBA CURB/Agajanian/Beck Motorsports
99. Townsend Bell USA Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
02. Justin Wilson GBR Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing*
06. Graham Rahal USA Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing*
TBA TBA TBA PDM Racing

* denotes rookie

[all chassis-engine combinations Dallara-Honda unless marked with #, when Panoz-Honda]

 

Comments

Loading Comments...