Jacques Villeneuve said he got interested in driving Indy cars again from watching the close competition these past two seasons and relishes the opportunity to return to this year’s Indianapolis 500.
“I wasn’t considering going back to anything I’d already done,” said the ’95 Indy winner (LEFT) and CART champion while speaking Wednesday on a teleconference to officially announce what RACER.com first reported on Monday night. “But I got interested in watching last year because it looked exciting with the new cars and I was jealous I wasn’t racing. It was impressive how close the racing was and it looked hard on the driver and the battles were furious. It reminded me of when I was a kid and made me want to be a race driver.”
The 42-year-old Canadian had been openly critical of the Indy Racing League’s all-oval format and admitted he’d quit watching all but the Indy 500 before the new car was introduced in 2012.
“I was dubious of it because it (IndyCar) had some very dark days,” said the 1997 world champion, who last drove an open-wheel car in his final Formula 1 campaign of 2006. “But it’s been building the past few years trying to re-create a great series and get back to its glory days.
“It’s back to road racing and a mix and to the Indy cars that I knew. And it’s pure racing.”
Villeneuve, who will team with Simon Pagenaud (ABOVE) and rookie Mikhail Aleshin in the Schmidt-Peterson stable, hopes to get in a test with his DW-12 Dallara/Honda before May but didn’t seem concerned about the 19-year gap he’s facing.
“It would be nice to get some laps before Indy but there is still plenty of laps to put down in May during practice,” said the man who overcame a two-lap deficit to triumph in 1995 after Scott Goodyear passed the pace car.
“Although I haven’t driven this car yet I imagine it will be quite stiff and reactive and you won’t be able to manhandle it as much to what I’ve been driving lately (rally cars). This is an era where you’re not allowed to take risks anymore, but with these cars you are and it’s great.”
Considering his age, the fact he has kids now and hasn’t driven an Indy car since 1995, Villeneuve was asked what played into his decision.
“It’s the biggest race in the world, it’s exciting and I’ve got a good car that will be well prepared and have a chance to do something good,” he responded. “I’m a racer at heart and that’s what keeps me going.
“And, I don’t want my kids to see the guy who raced in the history books, I want them to see me actively so they’ve actually had a positive effect.”
Providing commentary on F1 is his full-time gig in 2014 and that would prevent him from running the IndyCar race at Toronto on July 20, even if he wanted to.
“It wouldn’t be constructive because you show up on Friday and don’t get mileage like at Indianapolis,” he reasoned. “I only have four or five free weekends all season and I’m going to have to miss Barcelona and Monaco.
“But, as a one-off, the Indy 500 stands out because it’s still the biggest race in the world and I’m looking forward to it.”