INDY WINNERS WHELDON, CHEEVER, FITTIPALDI TO RACE IN SPECIALS
INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2005 -- Indianapolis 500 winners Dan Wheldon, Eddie Cheever Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi will race in special, invitation-only events in the next three weeks, with Cheever's participation in the Grand Prix Masters his first return to the cockpit since 2002.
2005 Indy winner Wheldon accepted an invitation to compete in the Race of Champions on Friday, Dec. 3 at the Stade de France in Paris. Cheever and Fittipaldi will compete in the first round of the new Grand Prix Masters series Nov. 11-13 at the Kyalami circuit at Gauteng, South Africa.
In the Race of Champions, Wheldon will represent the IRL IndyCar Series against top drivers from all of the world's other major forms of motorsports -- Formula One, World Rally, NASCAR, sports cars, Champ Car, GP2, Rally Raid and DTM -- in a unique event. Drivers will compete on an asphalt course in France's national soccer stadium before more than 60,000 fans, driving a Citroen Xsara WRC car, Porsche 911 GT3 sports car and Race of Champions off-road buggy in heat races.
The heats will eliminate drivers until two drivers square off in a race to determine the champion. Race of Champions drivers also will compete for the Nations Cup, representing their home country.
Other drivers scheduled to compete in Paris are Formula One stars David Coulthard and Felipe Massa, four-time Allstate 400 at the Brickyard winner Jeff Gordon, World Rally champions Sebastian Loeb, Marcus Gronholm and Colin McRae, motocross champion Travis Pastrana, Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais, Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen, DTM and former Formula One star Jean Alesi, GP2 standouts Heikki Kovalainen and Nelson Piquet Jr., DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom and Rally Raid star Stephane Peterhansel.
"This is a proud moment for me to receive an invitation to the Race of Champions in Paris," Wheldon said. "This is such a unique event, and I hear the atmosphere at the Stade de France is electric."
1998 Indy winner Cheever will make his first competitive drive since the IndyCar Series season finale in September 2002 at Texas Motor Speedway against many of the foes he raced during his F1 career from 1978-89.
"I thought that book had been closed," Cheever said. "Now here we are again, with many of the same people, nearly 20 years later. I am excited about the fact that I will race against some of the greatest drivers of my generation again. I enjoyed my career as a Grand Prix driver and this will be a fun way to revisit that part of my life."
Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Fittipaldi, 1993 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Nigel Mansell and Stefan Johansson are three of Cheever's former rivals from F1 and Indy cars who are racing at Kyalami. The new series is open to drivers 45 and older who completed at least two seasons in F1.
Other drivers scheduled to race at Kyalami include former World Champion Alan Jones, Riccardo Patrese, Rene Arnoux, Christian Danner, Andrea de Cesaris, Jacques Laffite, Jan Lammers, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Patrick Tambay and Derek Warwick.
"For every driver that will be racing at Kyalami, I have a story," Cheever said. "We are all older, fatter and wrinkled, but I expect we will be the same drivers on the track with the same character traits.
"I am just hoping that the race is not the full length of a Grand Prix. If it is, I am going to have to stop and drink an espresso midway through the race."
Grand Prix Masters drivers will compete in single-seat cars designed and built by Delta Motorsport. The cars will be powered by a 3.5-liter V8 Nicholson McLaren Cosworth engine generating more than 600 horsepower.
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