RLL's Michel Jourdain Jr. gets a refresher test at Indianapolis

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Michel Jourdain To Drive an IndyCar For the First Time Since 2004 Tomorrow at IMS

Michel Jourdain, Roush-Fenway Ford and Ron Fellows, Hendrick Motorsport Chevrolet
Michel Jourdain, Roush-Fenway Ford and Ron Fellows, Hendrick Motorsport Chevrolet

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

MICHEL AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY Office Depot / RLL Racing driver Jourdain Jr., 35, will attempt to qualify for his second Indianapolis 500 race this year. Indianapolis Motor Speedway will also be the site of his first laps behind the wheel of an Indy car since two Champ Car World Series oval races in 2004 at the Milwaukee Mile and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He will participate in a “refresher test” during the Rookie Orientation Program (ROP) on Thursday, May 10 from 9:00-2:30 p.m. ET.

WHAT IS THE ROOKIE ORIENTATION PROGRAM (ROP) & “REFRESHER?” Jourdain will participate in ROP from a “refresher” standpoint on Thursday, May 10 since he hasn’t driven an open wheel car since 2004. The IndyCar Series describes the process as follows: In addition to Car control, placement and a consistent driving pattern, the rookie orientation Test shall consist of three phases, totaling 40 laps: Phase One 10 laps, Phase Two 15 laps and Phase Three 15 laps. The laps do not have to be consecutive. The phases and corresponding speeds will be determined based on Track/weather conditions. Rookie Drivers must successfully complete a minimum of two of the three phases to be eligible to participate in practice when the facility opens for practice. No rookie Driver will be eligible for a qualifications attempt prior to completing the final phase.

Michel answers a few questions on the upcoming 96th running of the Indianapolis 500:

HAVE YOU FULLY REALIZED THAT YOU WILL COMPETE IN THE INDY 500? “Not really; just a little bit but not 100 percent. It’s hard for me to really get the feeling that I will be driving at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway again on Thursday.”

MICHEL ON WORDS THAT DESCRIBE INDY 500 AND HIS FIRST MEMORY OF THE RACE “Tradition. Speed. Champions. I remember Josele Garza leading 13 laps in 1981. I remember it perfectly! I was in bed watching the race with my dad and I remember him telling me ‘That’s Josele Garza leading the Indy 500.’ I remember it perfectly and I was four years old.”

MICHEL ON PREPARATION FOR HIS RETURN TO INDY CAR RACING – PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY “The last three years I have been training very hard because I have been doing triathlons and things like that. Now I have added some exercises for driving. Mentally I am just trying to approach it as if I was a rookie. I am trying to be very patient and not hurry anything up.”

MICHEL ON PRE-“REFRESHER” PREPARATION “I just want to go step-by-step as if I was a rookie. I will try to not think of anything that happened in the past and take it easy to just get the first laps out of the way. For me every time I drove a car for the first time, or on a track for the first time, being able to go to bed the first night and ‘sleep on it’ made a big difference because I was able to think through all that had happened and come back the next day and apply what I had learned.”

BRUNO COUPRIE ON INDY 500 AND WORKING WITH MICHEL

Bruno Couprie will be Michel’s race engineer for the Indy 500. Couprie is a fulltime engineer for the team’s ALMS program and is focused on the car of Bill Auberlen and Jörg Müller. He will be at the ALMS race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca over the weekend and will take over engineering duties from Monday, May 14-onward. Couprie was the race engineer for Oriol Servia’s front row qualifying effort at the 2011 Indy 500 as well as Servia and Newman/Haas Racing’s season-ending fourth place series rank. He joined RLL at the conclusion of the 2011 season and is excited about participating in another Indy 500.

“I am definitely excited to do the Indy 500 again after the results we got last year with Oriol Servia,” said Couprie. “There is a lot of potential at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, the team I have joined this year, and it should be an exciting month. It is really exciting to work with Michel. I have gotten to know him since Long Beach. We have kept in touch closely since then. The nice part is that he seems to be a driver that wants to bond with his engineer and that is the way I operated last year with good success (with Oriol Servia) and that is the way he has operated in the past with good success so I am looking forward to the experience.

“The focus is to get Michel back in the saddle to build confidence. If we can do that and have a trouble-free month of May I think the results will naturally come so we shouldn’t try to chase a result hard. We should just focus on doing a nice job together and everything should happen automatically.”

RACE ENGINEER GERRY HUGHES ON MICHEL’S “REFRESHER” COURSE

Gerry Hughes, Takuma Sato’s race engineer for 2012, will oversee Michel’s refresher test on Thursday. He explains the team’s approach to the test day. “It has been a while since Michel has been in an open-wheel race car but, speaking to him and looking at his biography in terms of his race experience, he is a vastly experienced race car driver and certainly has done a number of oval races in a number of different formulas so I feel that tomorrow our plan of attack is for him to build up his confidence in getting into the DW12, an all new car,” said Hughes. “He has got a little bit of time that he is going to require in the car to get up to speed and build up his confidence. Ideally we would like to go through all three phases and successfully complete those in the allotted time that we have for tomorrow during the ROP test event. Safety is of paramount importance and comes first but we will build up the drivers confidence and successfully go through Phases 1, 2 and 3 in a methodical, efficient and safe manner.”

MICHEL ON RLL’S HISTORY AT THE INDY 500 ”I had a lot of mixed feelings when Buddy Rice won the race in 2004. I was very happy for the team because I knew everybody on the team because I was with the team the two years before but I had mixed feelings because I had a chance to be with the team. It was tough because I knew I would have had a chance, not in that car, but as his teammate with the same equipment. But I was happy for all of the guys because I knew how good the team was.”

MICHEL ON WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO WIN THE INDY 500 “It would mean everything to me. I grew up watching more Indy car racing that Formula One. Many people in the world think of Formula One when they think of open wheel racing but for me, because of Josele (Garza) and because of the races my father and uncle Bernard did, I was focused on Indy car racing much more than F1. I remember standing in the race car when my father drove in the Mexico City race and the guys were pushing it. It was 1980 and 1981. I always grew up watching the Indy 500 so for me it would be the biggest thing ever to win the Indy 500!”

MICHEL ON DRIVERS WHOSE PERFORMANCE HE ADMIRES AT INDY SPECIFICALLY “It is amazing that Mario Andretti only won the race one time and Michael (Andretti) never won it. I was always a big fan of little Al so I was very happy when he won the race. I remember, of course, when my uncle (Bernard) raced in 1989 and I came to Indy in 1989. It was my birthday present to come. My birthday was in September but I got the present in advance. There are so many memories from watching the Indy 500.”

MICHEL ON THE REACTION BY FRIENDS AND FANS ABOUT HIS PARTICIPATION IN THE INDY 500 “The reaction has been fantastic! It was amazing, much, much bigger than I expected. After the announcement in Mexico, every where I went people knew I was doing the Indy 500. The guys I train with, at the airport and even when I got on the airplane to come to Indy people were like ‘Good luck.’ There has been a very nice reaction.”

MICHEL ON FAMILY AND SPONSORS COMING TO THE INDY 500 TO SUPPORT HIM “Between my family and sponsors, the total is going to be around 70 or 80 people coming from Mexico. Of course my direct family is coming, my parents, my brothers too. My older sister is the only one not coming right now. My two kids (of three) are coming and they haven’t really seen me race much ever because Michel (oldest at seven) was too little when I was doing NASCAR and then I went to Europe for rally racing and that is pretty much impossible to see as a spectator so they are very, very happy about coming to see me at the Indy 500. They wanted to come with me to Indy right away but it is not possible so they will come for race weekend. There are a lot of uncles that have never seen me race ever and they are coming so there will be a lot of people here to support me. It’s very good.”

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Series INDYCAR
Tags honda, rahal, ims, jourdain, letterman.lanigan

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