With Simon Pagenaud in pole position and Sébastien Bourdais 7th on the grid, the French are well placed to reconnect with the victory at the Indianapolis 500 miles.
Will France return to winning the Indianapolis 500 miles a century later? Simon Pagenaud, in pole position of the 103rd edition Sunday, and Sebastien Bourdais, 7th on the grid, have cards to play.
The last “French” hit at “Indy” dates back to 1920. French quotation marks come from Gaston Chevrolet, a Swiss and American pilot born in France, brother of the founder of the automobile brand who motorized half of the IndyCar plateau . Before him, Jules Goux and René Thomas had won in 1913 and 1914.
Pagenaud, 35, took their wheel a century later by signing the first French pole since Thomas in 1919. “Since my victory in the championship in 2016, my number 1 goal is the Indy 500, claims the 6th of last year, his best result. We are close, we have everything we need to do it. “
His performances confirm this: the Poitevin won the Indianapolis Grand Prix in mid-May, drawn partly on the oval of “Indy” , his 12th victory in IndyCar and the first for almost 18 months. And he figured very well during the preparatory test sessions at 500 miles.
“Having the fastest car is definitely a big advantage,” said the Penske pilot, the championship reference team. We can not say that the car will win but at least it gives us an opportunity. ” Indeed, only twenty drivers have won since pole, the last in … 2009!
“A beast apart”
On the intimidating Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a rectangular stretch of 2.5 miles (4 km) with four 9-degree turns on which the cars cross at 370 km/h, nothing is ever acquired.
“You can be the best and finish only 10th or be the 10th best and win,” said AFP IndyCar CEO Mark Miles. Many winners have said it is a race that chooses his champion more than the opposite. “
“Indianapolis, it’s a beast apart, abounds the Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, who tasted the milk served to the winner in 1995. You can go for 20 years and never win. It’s easy to be fast but it’s the approach of the race, especially in the last 20 laps (on no less than 200, or 804.6 km!), That makes the difference. It is up to everyone to choose their moments of aggression to choose their luck too. “
Simon Pagenaud, who competed for the first time in IndyCar in 2011, and Sébastien Bourdais, who has been crowned four times in ChampCar (championship since absorbed by the IndyCar) between 2003 and 2007 and who arrived in the category in 2011 as well, have enough experience to the knowledge.
Dale Coyne’s driver, whose best result at the Indy 500 is 7th in 2014, has very low confidence.
“We have a fast car but it’s complicated in the traffic, so I do not know exactly how it’s going to happen, admits the Manceau, 40 years old. The weather conditions are also quite unpredictable, it’s still a little cat and mouse because it changes so quickly … To be honest, we are a little tense because we do not know what are the rules of the Thu. “
The weather is indeed in the storm, but “we do not roll oval when it rains because it is too dangerous,” says Pagenaud. The race, which starts at 12:45 local (6:45 pm French), could be shifted, interrupted or terminated prematurely if it rained past halfway.
Among the 33 riders are seven former winners (Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Will Power, Takuma Sato and Scott Dixon) and seven former ChampCar / IndyCar champions. Six “rookies” make their debut and a woman, the British Pippa Mann, aligns herself.
Announced sensation of this 103rd edition, double world champion Formula 1 Fernando Alonso will follow on television, failing to qualify! The surprise – frequent to “Indy” – will not come from him. Why not, from then, the American Colton Herta, 5th on the grid and became in March the youngest winner of a race in IndyCar, 18 years and eleven months?