The memories of Jacques Villeneuve, winner of the « 505 » Miles of Indianapolis

In 1995, Villeneuve played his second season in the IndyCar series with the Team Green team sponsored by Player’s. He is excellently coached by Tony Cicale, a very experienced aerodynamicist and excellent teacher.

Qualified fifth, Villeneuve made a cautious start to the race and decided not to refuel during a neutralization. He’s staying on track, but he doesn’t know he’s leading the race. He accidentally overtakes the safety car. The sanction falls: not one, but two rounds of penalties. Jacques Villeneuve recently told how he had experienced this difficult race. He first tells us about this heavy penalty.

« It pissed me off. I was really upset, because it was a penalty that could easily have been avoided. The driver of the safety car didn’t try to stop me. overtaking it. It was chaos and nobody knew who was in the lead at the time. It was mind-boggling to ruin the Indy 500 in such a way; the most important motor race in the world. « 

Keep calm

“But nobody got upset. The team was very strong. Barry Green [directeur de l’équipe] and Tony Cicale [ingénieur] immediately spoke on the radio to remind me that it was a long race and that anything could happen. I trusted them completely. This is why I started to take risks. It has become for me qualifying round after qualifying round, which we never do in Indianapolis. Every five or ten laps, I would look at the standings on the big column, and I could see that I was going up. « 

« In practice and in qualifying, we noticed that my Reynard-Ford was not at the level of other cars with Honda engines and Firestone tires. On the other hand, on the chassis side, on the set-up side, we were the best, even the best prepared. . We were missing some engine and some tire gum. « 

Experimental Goodyear tires

“For the race, Goodyear brought tires that had never been tested. Goodyear designed and built tires, and the technicians said to themselves « We’ll put them on during the race and we’ll see what happens ». We did not install these new tires right away, because with normal tires, it was acceptable. We waited for other teams to install them to see how they behaved. « 

« It was when we took the penalty that the decision was made to ride the experimental tires. They were like qualifying tires! The grip was incredible. I could stay very close to the others in traffic. The car’s balance remained good, which is really impressive, especially at the speeds at that time. Today, you would never see a tire manufacturer bringing tires that had never been raced. Especially not at Indianapolis! « 

“Another advantage came from the fact that I consumed less fuel than the others. Each stint, I covered two or three laps more than the others. I also had a 6th gear which I sometimes used in suction to save money. fuel. And also to relieve the engine. I used to ease my foot in a corner, just a little bit, so that it didn’t explode during the last five laps. « 

My most beautiful turn

“On the other hand, I ended up with worn tires at one point. I slipped all the way through turn 2, totally across the track. I thought to myself ‘How am I going to do nothing. hit? « I did not relieve the accelerator and the car returned to a straight line, 30 cm from the wall. I think it was the best turn of my whole career! I thought my race was about to end. It calmed me down a bit. « 

“Later during the race, during a neutralization, I had another delicate moment. I couldn’t catch it with my fingers so I relaxed my seat belts so I could lean forward. Then I suddenly remembered that I had cut off the ends for shorten, as they tended to flap in the wind. When I stopped pulling on them, there was only an inch of the belt left. If the end had come out of the buckle, I would have had to stop at the stands. « 

A handful of laps to go

« Everything was going well and during the last neutralization with a little over ten laps to go, I was in second place behind Scott Goodyear [à bord d’une Reynard à moteur Honda et en pneus Firestone]. I said to myself « second for a second year in a row, it’s very good ». But suddenly I thought to myself that even though he was faster than me, I had to put a lot of pressure on him to make a mistake. So I pissed him off. As we drove behind the safety car, I stood next to him, slapped the brakes, then cranked the accelerator. At the green flag, I saw it go like a rocket. He passed the safety car and I hopped on the brakes. I said to myself « The rules are clear. I hope they will penalize it ». There was a small chance it would work. I played poker, and it worked! « 

« If the race was tough, it made the victory even more enjoyable. If we hadn’t taken that penalty early in the race, maybe we wouldn’t have won? I wouldn’t have attacked like crazy throughout the race and we would not have taken those ridiculous risks. This race will remain Indianapolis’ only 505 miles. It will remain a record, a historic event. « 

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