SONOMA, Calif. (May 17, 2002) -- Two different forms of racing. Two very different race cars. Two race tracks located nearly 3,000 miles apart. One driver who needs to be in both places on the same day. Johnny Herbert has been forced to try and...
SONOMA, Calif. (May 17, 2002) -- Two different forms of racing. Two very different race cars. Two race tracks located nearly 3,000 miles apart. One driver who needs to be in both places on the same day.
Johnny Herbert has been forced to try and do the impossible this Sunday. The English racing star will attempt to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday morning and then dash to California to drive in the American Le Mans Series Grand Prix of Sonoma presented by Fosters that same afternoon. His plan involves a private jet and two helicopters.
Herbert's situation was brought about by rain which canceled one full day of qualifying in Indianapolis last weekend. Herbert, a former Formula One winner who is trying to qualify for his first Indianapolis 500, was unable to post a qualifying speed.
He had hoped to be solidly in the field at the conclusion of the first weekend of qualifying, therefore avoiding the drama of having to be involved in Bump Day, the notorious final day of Indy qualifying that has broken the hearts of many race drivers.
Had he qualified, Herbert could have spent this entire weekend at Sears Point, where he will co-drive the Champion Racing Audi R8 Prototype in the ALMS event. Instead, he practiced the Audi on Friday and then caught a redeye flight back to Indianapolis to practice the Indy car on Saturday. Herbert started the ALMS season with a victory in the Sebring 12-hour race and needs to race to protect his points position. He is also under contract to Champion Racing for the ALMS season.
After practicing this week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and wrestling with what to do, Herbert decided to try to do both. Qualifying at Indy begins at noon Sunday (Central time), and he is slated to be third in line. After making his run, he will be helicoptered from the track to a waiting jet for the trip to California. The jet will land at Novato, Calif., where another chopper will bring Herbert to Sears Point.
The American Le Mans Series race starts at 1 p.m. (Pacific) and is a two-hour, 45-minute timed event. As is the norm for sports car racing, Herbert will share the car with other drivers in the event. The plan is for teammates Andy Wallace and Tom Kristensen to drive the first two stints and then Herbert will drive the final leg after arriving at Sears Point.
"Everything will have to work perfectly," he said. "But it can be done."
By not staying at Indy, Herbert will not have the opportunity to requalify if his car is bumped from the field in the remaining qualifying time. In theory, he could be bumped from the field while he is on the track at Sears Point. In an ironic twist, Indy qualifying will end 15 minutes after the conclusion of the Sears Point race.
"We had the option of having another driver qualify the car (at Indy), but I didn't want to do that," said Herbert. "Driving in the Indy 500 has been a goal of mine for many years and I wanted to do it the right way. Hopefully this will all work out."