Indianapolis 500: 200 laps at 300 km/h to enter an exclusive club

« The most spectacular race in the world » for its organizers, a myth of motorsport for the 33 drivers in the running: the Indianapolis 500 is a race apart and the 102nd edition on Sunday (12:00 p.m. local, 6:00 p.m. French) will not certainly not change the situation, as his suitors are numerous.

Helio Castroneves knows better than anyone what it takes to win at « Indy »: the Brazilian will line up at 43 for the 18th time on the famous oval circuit, hoping to clinch a fourth success after his victories in 2001, 2002 and 2009.

« I would like to be able to say that the race is going to be boring, that I will start in the lead and that nobody will catch me, but that will never happen », smiles the pilot of the Penske team.

« What I can assure you, however, is that the race will be tough for the drivers and very exciting for the public to follow, » he insists.

At the daunting Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a 2.5 mile (4 km) rectangular course with four banked 9-degree turns and two endless straights of one kilometer each, nothing is ever taken for granted.

If he had forgotten it, Castroneves had a call to order last weekend during qualifying: best time of the first day on Saturday, he had to settle for 8th in time the next day and will start from the 3rd row on the starting grid.

Bourdais a year later

« There are thousands of ways to lose this race and thousands of ways to win it, » summarizes Sébastien Bourdais.

The French driver of the Dale Coyne team is, in the opinion of many, a miracle: during qualifying in 2017, his single-seater went sideways in the N.2 turn at more than 350 km / h and hit the exterior wall before flying off and catching fire.

Bourdais, crowned four times in ChampCar between 2004 and 2007, escaped with multiple fractures to the pelvis and a hip. For his return to « Indy », he achieved his best « qualifiers » (5th), not without having experienced a difficult weekend with « a mixture of stress, apprehension and full of feelings ».

He expects an even more difficult race than in previous years: the weather forecast announces temperatures of around 30°C, which will limit, according to him, the possibilities of overtaking.

In this context, « starting in front and trying to stay there, that will be the key to the race », he predicts.

American Ed Carpenter will start on pole for the third time in his career, but he has never done better than 5th at « Indy ».

Especially since he will be surrounded by Penske drivers, with the Frenchman Simon Pagenaud and the Australian Will Power at his side on the front row, and behind him the American Josef Newgarden, reigning IndyCar champion.

Danica Patrick’s Farewell

The reference team of the IndyCar Championship has won only two of the last ten editions (2009, 2015) of the legendary speed race, but it made a strong impression during free practice and qualifying.

« We have all the ingredients to be good, we have a shot to play for the + win + », believes Newgarden.

A year after the participation of double Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso, forced to retire in the final while he was in the game, the attraction of the 2018 edition is called Danica Patrick.

The American, 3rd in the event in 2009 – the best result in history and the only podium for a woman – will end her 36-year racing career on Sunday evening.

« I don’t think for a second afterwards, I’m in my race and I don’t want to disappoint my team », warned the one who is a star in the United States for her exploits in IndyCar and Nascar.

But « Indy » likes to surprise, as in 2017 and 2016: the Japanese Takuma Sato and the American Alexander Rossi, then rookie, respectively spent only 17 and 14 of the 200 laps in the lead before snatching the most important victory of their career.

27/05/2018 07:54:22 – Los Angeles (AFP) – © 2018 AFP

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