The 2008 Indianapolis 500 field boasts eleven 'rookie' drivers, though many of them are accomplished drivers in racing disciplines from around the globe. The eleven men (Alex Lloyd, Bruno Junqueira, Will Power, Jaime Camara, E J Viso, Enrique ...
The 2008 Indianapolis 500 field boasts eleven 'rookie' drivers, though many of them are accomplished drivers in racing disciplines from around the globe.
The eleven men (Alex Lloyd, Bruno Junqueira, Will Power, Jaime Camara, E J Viso, Enrique Bernoldi, Justin Wilson, Graham Rahal, Oriol Servia, Hideki Mutoh and Mario Moraes) gathered on Saturday (May 24th) morning prior to the public drivers' meeting at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to take a peek at the Chase Bank Rookie of the Year Award and describe their maiden experience at the Speedway.
The Rookie of the Year trophy is symbolic of the best in skill, speed, sportsmanship, accessibility to fans and media, qualifications, race performance and finishing position over the entire month of May. It is awarded to the driver in his first '500' that best exemplifies these ideals.
KV Racing's Will Power was first to comment on the experience he's had at Indy, describing his first impressions and the finer technical points he's learned since the Rookie Orientation Program at Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened on May 4th. "You don't realize how big the place is until you're here," he began. "And the energy of the first day carries on through the whole month. I'm very impressed."
"I've found you must drive the oval like a series of four fast corners on a road course: take a traditional line, and let the car go out toward the wall coming from the corners."
Newman Haas Lanigan's veteran racer Justin Wilson competed on the U S Grand Prix Indy road course with Jaguar Racing in 2003, so he's not a complete neophyte at Indy. He's happy, finally, to go around the racetrack's oval in its 'proper' counterclockwise direction--the opposite of the route he took in Formula 1.
"There's no comparison to Formula 1," he said of the oval experience here. "The size of the crowds in the grandstands, the excitement along the pitlane when the full field is out on-track--it is all so big."
"The other difference is in speed. In F1 we take the first corner (a hard right off the front straightaway just prior to Indy Turn 4) in first gear, a very slow pace for a Formula 1 car."
"This month I've been flat (throttle pedal to floor) nearly the entire time on the Speedway, running flat out at high speed every second. It's quite a thrill," he continued.
HVM Racing's E J Viso has been a high-profile figure since his arrival the first week of May, taking in the sights of the city at night, running in the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon of 13.1 miles and generally enjoying the Hoosier hospitality he's been generously afforded by the locals.
On the track he's had only one incident, a light brush with the wall that put him on the sidelines for an afternoon.
"This track is so different," he said, "it is so difficult. You have to learn so much: about the line, about the restarts, about the traffic."
"The most gratifying result for me will simply be to get to the end. We have a very stable, good, fast race car. We've leaned toward a conservative setup for my racecar, but we will be able to finish and race well."
The trio will join their eight peers on the grid of the 92nd Running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing on Sunday when they for the first time will experience the greatest thrill of the season: the balloons lifting off from behind the infield grandstands that signal the Indianapolis 500 is about to begin.