Former Haas F1 and current Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing driver Kevin Magnussen was a surprise guest on pit lane as practice for the 105th Indianapolis 500 commenced on Tuesday.
Coming off a disheartening run to fifth in class on Sunday at the Mid-Ohio IMSA race, the Dane chose to lift his spirits by heading west to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to take in the sights and raw speeds on display.
“I got the opportunity to drive to from Mid-Ohio to Indianapolis and check out some practice for the Indy 500, which was great,” he told RACER. “I’ve always been very open about wanting to have a go in an IndyCar one day. I went to stand in the middle of the pit lane, you know, only like five or 10 meters from the cars running at close to 400 kilometers an hour. With only like, half a meter of wall in between me and the cars. And then you see those cars going flat out, not even lifting into Turn 1. It’s definitely something I need to try one day.”
Magnussen is no stranger to racing at over 200mph in Formula 1 where the long straights at Mexico and Monza allow for impressive top speeds. But at Indy, where those speeds aren’t shed while braking into a slow corner, the danger and allure captured the 28-year-old’s imagination.
“It’s just crazy. It’s a really mystical place,” he continued. “Because you know that they’re going flat out around the lap, you know, at least in quali trim and when they’re in clean air in the race they do as well. But even though they’re flat out the whole lap, there’s so much technique that goes into a good lap. It’s all those little inputs, and it’s way more in the details than it is driving a race car on a normal road course. You need to be so precise with your inputs in the car.
“I say this having never driven on an oval or Indianapolis, but that’s what I take from it. And all this happens close to 400 kilometers an hour and it’s just fascinating, and they’re racing each other as well. It’s at that speed and with walls that close to the track. It’s pretty phenomenal.”
The Ganassi team gave Magnussen the full Indy 500 experience with an immersive look into how the defending series champions operate at IndyCar’s biggest event.
“It’s interesting just to get a look on from the inside of how they do things over there in the IndyCar team,” he said. “I got to sit in on the debrief after the first day of testing. which was awesome, and there’s a lot of a lot of new things that I’ve never heard about that they’re talking about. You know, setting a car up for the Indianapolis 500 is very different to setting it up for anything else that I’ve done. So, just interesting and cool to listen in on that and to really get a get a look from the inside.”
Magnussen missed seeing former Haas teammate Romain Grosjean, who earned pole and finished second for last weekend’s Indy Grand Prix before returning home to France. But he did keep an eye on the proceedings from Mid-Ohio, and cheered the Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing driver on from afar.
“I’ve raced this guy for four years as a teammate, and I know him very well,” he said of Grosjean. “We’ve had some really hot battles on track, and it’s cool to see that he’s doing well, straight out of the box and already getting poles and hopefully getting some race wins. I know what a good driver this guy is, so that doesn’t really surprise me. But still good to see.”
Once he’s done with IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season in the No. 01 Cadillac DPi-V.R he shares with Renger van der Zande, Magnussen is headed to the FIA World Endurance Championship as part of Peugeot’s new-for-2022 Hypercar program. He hopes to find a point in time in the near future where a return to America and an opportunity in the NTT IndyCar Series becomes a reality.
“You’ve got to remember, I’m still just a motorsport fan,” he said. “I just I love racing and IndyCar is one of the forms of racing that I that I really find cool and interesting. I’d love to have a go. I’m super excited about what I’m down to do now with Peugeot and at Le Mans but you know, I’m a young guy and there’s still a lot of years left in me. There’s a lot of things that I that I would like to do before I hang my helmet up. And the Indy 500 is absolutely one of them.”