Frenchman Simon Pagenaud in a mythical race

The legendary Indianapolis oval circuit is hosting the 101st edition of the Indy 500 this Sunday.

Simon Pagenaud
Simon Pagenaud © AFP / ERIC FEFERBERG /

It is the typical American race that reigning Indy Car Series champion and championship leader, Poitevin Simon Pagenaud dreams of winning. Even if he only qualified in a modest 23rd place for the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, Simon Pagenaud remains very confident, armed with a high-performance and efficient car in traffic which could allow him to « play the troublemakers » in the final sprint.

Bill and his son Walker set up their tent at the speedway’s official campsite. An immense terrain divided into thousands of pitches. The barbecue begins to smoke next to the coal reserve, the three coolers are full of beers. Everything is ready to spend four days between a father who has been coming here since he was 13 and his barely adult son, who is visiting Indianapolis for the first time.

On the neighboring site, Pettsy, Mary and Véronica are installed, three retired friends who came from New Jersey in a motorhome. Pettsy celebrates his fiftieth Indy 500! An unconditional fan of French driver Simon Pagenaud, she is proud of her passion for Indy Car:  » it may be surprising, but we women also like powerful cars, which make noise and which go very fast « .

Cars traveling at 400 km/h

Pettsy and Bill are among the 400,000 people who make the trip every year, like others go on pilgrimage. On this Memorial Day, American flags fly in the wind to honor fallen soldiers. Whether they have a seat at 20 or 900 dollars, spectators expect to see the cars overtake each other at nearly 400 kilometers per hour in a straight line.

Indianapolis 500 Miles
At the Indianapolis 500 © Radio France / Guillaume Battin

12 years before the 24 Hours of Le Mans

It is the oldest circuit race in the world. The start of the first edition is given in 1911. Three Frenchmen will impose themselves during the first decade: Jules Goux in 1913 (Peugeot), René Thomas the following year (Delage) and the future American citizen and founder of the automobile brand, Gaston Chevrolet in 1920 (Frontenac).

97 years later, a Frenchman is one of the favourites. It is the poitevin Simon Pagenaud, winner of the Indy Car championship in 2016 and leader in the general classification 2017.

After 5 participations, he has never been so close to a success that makes him dream and that would put him on the same level as legends such as Mario Andretti or Emerson Fittipaldi.

Simon Pagenaud:

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Simon Pagenaud

By Guillaume Battin

International opening

Of the 15 Grand Prix of the Indy Car championship, 14 take place in the United States and the last in Toronto, in neighboring Canada. But according to Mark Miles, the boss of the Indy Car Series and the Indianapolis 500, the American championship will soon organize two stages abroad, probably in the United Arab Emirates, Australia, South Asia -East or in South Africa (on the Porsche Kyalami circuit north of Johannesburg).

The choice has not yet been made. The long European Formula 1 season makes it impossible to organize a stage on the old continent while several emerging countries are just waiting for that.

The presence this year of the Spaniard Fernando Alonso is a godsend for Indy Car. The double F1 world champion (2005 and 2006) brings visibility to the competition. For his part, he is aiming for the treble Grand Prix of Monaco – 24 Hours of Le Mans – 500 Miles that only the British Graham Hill achieved in the history of motorsport in 1972. “ I have the feeling that we have been asleep for too long on the subject of our overseas expansion says Mark Miles, the former boss of world tennis (1990 – 2005) has had only one obsession since taking office in 2012: developing the Indy Car internationally.

Season over for Sébastien Bourdais

While struggling to clinch pole position, Frenchman Sébastien Bourdais (Dale Coyne Racing) suffered an impressive crash. His car crashed into the barrier at full speed. Victim of several pelvic and hip fractures, the pilot was successfully operated on.

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24 hours after his accident which will deprive him of the end of the season, Le Mans posted a reassuring photo on his twitter account.

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