NHR's Oriol Servia Indy 500 preview

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Servia Aims To Carry Momentum from Third Place Series Rank to Indy 500


NEWS & NOTES:

1 POLE (1987) & TWO SECONDS AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY (IMS)

The 2011 entry will mark the 19th year for the team in the event and the sixth since 1995. Prior to 2011, the team prepared a total of 28 entries for drivers such as Mario and Michael Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Paul Tracy, Bruno Junqueira, Sebastien Bourdais, Justin Wilson, Graham Rahal, Robert Doornbos and Hideki Mutoh. Spaniard Oriol Servia, driver of the No. 2 Telemundo entry, and Canadian James Hinchcliffe, driver of the No, 06 Sprott entry, will bring that total to 30 in 2011.

If we do our jobs as good as I know we can, I am sure we will do great

Oriol Servia

NHR’s highest finish in the Indy 500 is second place with Mario Andretti in 1985 and Michael Andretti in 1991 although team drivers have led a total of 791 laps here. Mario Andretti also brought the team its highest start in the event when he won the pole position in 1987. NHR’s 2004 entry of Junqueira marked the first time for the team to compete here since 1995 and they qualified fourth and led 16 laps in the late stages of the race before pitting a few laps before the race ended early due to tornados. They returned again in 2005 with Junqueira, who led two laps but was injured in a crash while trying to lap a backmarker, and IMS rookie Bourdais. In 2008 the team ran Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal here during a transition season in the series and ran Rahal and Robert Doornbos in 2009. Hideki Mutoh qualified for the Firestone Fast Nine shootout in 2010 and started ninth but retired with handling problems. The team has earned Rookie of the Year once, with Mansell in 1993 when he finished third. The team will attempt to win Indy 500 Rookie of the Year again this season with James Hinchcliffe, 24.

MORE ON FINISHING SECOND TWICE AT INDY

Mario Andretti led 107 of 200 laps in the 1985 Indianapolis 500 but finished second to Danny Sullivan’s “Spin and Win” effort. Michael Andretti led 22 laps but stalled in the pit entrance on his final stop and finished second to Rick Mears in 1991. Nigel Mansell led 34 laps and finished third in his first (of two) Indy 500’s in 1993 and was also named “Rookie of the Year” that season. NHR drivers have led a total of 791 laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway which is possibly the highest number of laps led by a team yet to win the legendary race.

IN 500-MILE RACES -- 5 WINS & 6 POLES

The team has won five 500-mile races. The most recent 500-mile wins came in 2000 (Christian Fittipaldi, $1 million purse) and 2001 (Cristiano da Matta, $1 million purse) at California Speedway. The team also won the 500-mile events at Michigan International Speedway in 1984 (Mario Andretti), 1989 (Michael Andretti) and in 1993 (Mansell). The team won poles for 500-mile races at Indianapolis (1987; Mario Andretti), Michigan (1984 – Mario Andretti, 1992 – Mario Andretti, 1993 – Mario Andretti, 1994 – Mansell) and Pocono (1987 – Mario Andretti).

Oriol Servia, Newman/Haas Racing
Oriol Servia, Newman/Haas Racing

Photo by: Bob Heathcote

ORIOL AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY

Telemundo driver Oriol Servia will attempt to qualify for his third Indianapolis 500 race this year and first with Newman/Haas Racing. Servia first drove for the team in 2005 as the replacement for Bruno Junqueira who suffered a season-ending injury in the Indy 500 on May 29. He went on to finish second to teammate Sebastien Bourdais in the point standings and earned seven podiums, including his first win in Montreal in 11 events with the team. He also made two front row starts including his first pole in Australia.

In his previous two Indy 500 starts, Servia ran as high as eighth and finished 11th in 2008 with KV Racing after he qualified 25th. He was running tenth in the 2009 race with Rahal Letterman Racing when a fuel pressure problem forced him to retire after 98/200 laps. He qualified 25th and retired in 26th in 2009.

Oriol answers a few questions on the upcoming 95th running of the Indianapolis 500:

WHAT WORDS COME TO MIND WHEN YOU THINK OF THE INDY 500?

“Biggest challenge. Biggest joy. Biggest crowd. Biggest trophy. Biggest!”

IS THE INDY 500 KNOWN IN SPAIN?

“The Indy 500 has always been shown live in Spain. It has a name that stands on its own. It is one of those races that some people may have never watched but everybody knows about it.”

WHEN DID YOU KNOW FOR SURE YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE IN THE INDY 500?

“My first year racing in the US was in 1998 in Indy Lights and even if Champ Car was my natural path, I knew right away that the Indy 500 was my goal. I loved ovals from my first lap and Indy has all the ingredients of the best ovals: high speeds, super challenging corners, great racing and a very long race which has always suited me.”

YOUR PREVIOUS OVAL RACE WAS IN JAPAN 2009 WHERE YOU FINISHED FOURTH WITH NHR. WHAT IS THE PROCESS TO GET BACK UP TO SPEED AT THE FASTEST TRACK?

“The good thing about the Indy 500 is that we test here for so many days that you can take your time to get used to the particulars of the track and speed without rushing things. The last oval we did together, we finished fourth and the first one we did back in 2005 (Milwaukee) we finished third so I would say we do have good "high speed" chemistry. The question is not how long it will take but how much will we be able to get from each other. If we do our jobs as good as I know we can, I am sure we will do great.”

CAN YOU FEEL THE SPEED OR IS IT RELATIVE ONCE YOU HAVE DONE IT A FEW LAPS?

“I have driven at faster places than Indy. At Fontana for example, we used to lap at 240 mph average but it would actually feel a lot slower than Indy. The way the corners come at you with a 90 degree angle here makes it very challenging for the driver to keep the ‘foot down.’ And you are reminded after every straight of how fast you are going!”

DESCRIBE YOUR PREVIOUS INDY 500 EVENTS

“In 2008 with KV Racing, we had a great race considering we had just come from Champ Car and we had very limited experience with the cars and the track itself. We finished eleventh and flirted with the top-10 for most of the race. We struggled a bit in ultimate speed but we had a good race car and we were able to move forward every lap. In 2009, I entered the race with Rahal-Letterman Racing but we only had the budget for a limited, second-week program. Because of it we qualified solidly for the race but towards the back of the grid. Because of the limited time on track we focused on getting a good setup for the race and we did; we were flying through the field. I started 25th and just at the halfway point of the race, I was in ninth place trying to pass Townsend Bell and Dan Wheldon and, unfortunately just at that point we had a very strange mechanical failure when the fuel pump went down and we had to retire.”

YOU HAVE RACED IN TWO INDY 500’S AND ATTEMPTED TO COMPETE IN MANY MORE. WHAT IS DIFFERENT FOR THIS ONE?

“I have participated (in the race) on two occasions and have tried to come up with the budget for many more. This year I am entering the race with the team that not only I have had the most success with, but a team that has a lot of experience at this track, has had a lot of successful attempts in the past but has not gotten the biggest prize yet. Newman/Haas has the know how to win the race and has more than unfinished business. I feel we are meeting -- Newman/Haas Racing, myself, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- at very special time for all of us and although I obviously cannot guarantee any result I am sure that the level of focus, desire, aim and expertise we will accomplish through the whole month of May, culminating on the 29th, will be a once in a lifetime experience for all of us.”

COMPARE/CONTRAST YOUR PREVIOUS “500’S” TO THE MOMENTUM YOU HAVE COMING INTO THIS ONE?

“The other years, for one reason or another, we knew going into the race that we were at a clear disadvantage to our competitors. This time it is not that way. We know that come race day if the Telemundo team has done our best work, we have a real shot at winning this thing. It feels great to know that it is in our hands.”

WHEN DID YOU KNOW FOR SURE THAT YOU WOULD HAVE A CHANCE TO BE IN THE CENTENNIAL INDY 500 AND WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS?

“It was kind of an ‘I knew it, it had to happen, this race was made for me to win it!’ I do not think exactly like that and I would not say it in public, but I feel really at home within those walls...”

ARE THERE ANY DRIVERS WHOSE PERFORMANCE YOU ADMIRE AT INDY SPECIFICALLY?

“So many drivers have shown such greatness at this track. It is impossible to point out one but I have to say that on my first years of racing in the US in Indy Lights I was teammates of Casey Mears, the team manager was his dad Roger and Rick came by a lot to give us a hand and spot for Casey on the ovals. That year thanks to the whole ‘Mears Gang’ I learned a lot about ovals. More than a driving style or a particular setup, I learned what sort of philosophy is needed to succeed on ovals. Learning from Rick, a former four-time Indy 500 winner was as you can imagine -- a total luxury. I have always been very thankful to him and have a big admiration.”

WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT NEWMAN/HAAS RACING’S HISTORY AT THE INDY 500?

“The short version: I know that they are owed a big one! They have been in a position to not only win but dominate the race many times but the most unbelievable things have happened that have denied them a well deserved victory. I have heard before that if there is a track that has the character of a woman -- that is Indianapolis. Well, it seems that the track and the team have this very long lasting love relationship where Indy has been teasing the team for the longest time but has not completely given it the highest prize to make sure the team comes back for more! Actually there is a period of years were the team didn't come back to the race and you could almost say the team got ‘hurt’ in some ways by the track. Now the pain is cured and we are back more in love with race than ever and committed to get the sweetest victory. Will we succeed in our love affair? We are not leaving until we get a yes.”

Oriol Servia, Newman/Haas Racing
Oriol Servia, Newman/Haas Racing

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

WHEN YOU FIRST HEARD OF OVAL RACING, WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE CONCEPT? WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST EXPERIENCE ON AN OVAL? HOW HAS YOUR PERCEPTION CHANGED FROM THEN TO NOW?

“I never thought -- good or bad -- much of it. There is just no oval racing back in Europe so I had never been exposed. My first test was with an Indy Lights car in Homestead, the old Homestead that was a small Indianapolis replica. I loved it right away and was second fast of all drivers on my first day. I knew right away that ovals and I would get along.”

WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU TO WIN THE INDY 500?

“I can't even imagine. I just know how much I want it. I don't even care how it will affect my future as much as how it would make me feel the moment I did it.”

DESCRIBE QUALIFYING FOR THE INDY 500

“It is the biggest challenge a driver will ever face. It doesn't matter if you are going for pole or the twentieth spot. After spending seven days running around setting up the car for those four laps you get to qualifying and you will have the least amount of downforce you ever had and will have to be flat (on the fuel pedal) around for the longest four minutes of your life. You and the car will enter this trust relationship where, arriving into Turn 1, although you don't want to turn the wheel because you feel how very little grip there is out there, because you wanted to go the fastest possible on the straight, but you turn and somehow you pass the corner... It's amazing.”

WHAT IS YOUR OPINION OF THE FIRESTONE FAST NINE & MAKING THREE MORE (!!!) Q RUNS?

“I’m not sure what to think. I can only guess that if you have the speed to get into the top nine, the adrenaline to be able to go for the pole of the greatest race in the planet must give you what it takes to try to risk ‘just a little more, just a little more.’ Again it goes back to that teasing game with the track of how much you want and how much you trust she won't bite you back?”

WHAT IS YOUR GOAL FOR THE INDY 500?

“This is not just another race and should not be treated like any other race, and we are definitely treating it very special. At the same time we need to do what we have been doing up this point which is to focus one step at a time and make sure we get the best out of each other. That is our goal.”

ANY FAMILY MEMBERS OR FRIENDS COMING TO WITNESS YOU COMPETING IN THE GREATEST SPECTICAL IN RACING?

“Yes. Indy always brings a lot of people. I have a good group of friends coming from Spain and my girlfriend is from Chicago and a lot of family members will be coming to support me. Indy is such a great show that everybody, race fans or not, has a great time. I can't wait to start!”

-source: Newman/Haas Racing

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Series INDYCAR
Tags haas, indianapolis, newman, oriol servia