Jacques Villeneuve is doing everything to participate in the Daytona 500, after testing in which he participated on Wednesday. The 1997 Formula 1 World Champion was behind the wheel of Team Hezeberg’s number 27 Ford at Daytona International Speedway, as this new team founded by Toine Hezemans and Ernst Berg make their way to the Cup Series. 2019 Euro NASCAR Champion, Loris Hezemans will be the pilot on the road circuits but nothing is established for the ovals.
Asked about the opportunity to participate in the Daytona 500, Jacques Villeneuve made no secret. « It would be amazing », he confided. “The last time I came to NASCAR was a few years, many years ago. It would be really special. It’s a race apart and it’s hard to participate in it when you have to qualify in time or go through. the dual [la course qualificative]. It makes things more stressful. Just being in would be something special. «
Team Hezeberg must indeed go through qualifications so that Jacques Villeneuve can participate, with two possible routes. The Canadian has four starts in the championship but had failed to qualify for the Daytona 500 in 2008 with the Bill Davis Racing team, victim of an accident during the qualifying race. He also raced in NASCAR in Talladega, Phoenix, Indianapolis and Sonoma.
Last year, he won his first race in Euro NASCAR, a championship in which he has been racing since 2019 alongside his activity as a TV consultant at the Formula 1 Grands Prix. « I always wanted to race in NASCAR », he recalls. « It’s all about the expediency and it just got harder and harder to run. »
The first step is taken with a first day of testing which allowed him to discover new generation cars.
« The track was really bumpy », describes the Quebecer. « These cars have a lot of downforce, they’re pretty stiff, pretty close to a GT. They seem pretty easy to drive. Right now we’re not fast, but in the peloton it was super easy to drive. »
“It’s a new team, a small team, and right now we’re focusing on Daytona hoping to do more races. It was good to get back in the car. I had done a few laps in practice at Charlotte and it was very complicated. The car was strange to drive there. There are a few races in the world that stand out for me: the Indianapolis 500, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and Daytona. It’s part of it. ‘a small group of races apart and if you have a chance to be there, you have to give it a try. «
Interview by Jim Utter