Young Driver seeks podium for Team Rahal on F-1 circuit. MONTREAL, QUE., CANADA (August 21, 2002) -- Danica Patrick finally got her wish this summer. In May, the 20-year-old female driver from Roscoe, Ill., was seating on the sidelines waiting...
Young Driver seeks podium for Team Rahal on F-1 circuit.
MONTREAL, QUE., CANADA (August 21, 2002) -- Danica Patrick finally got her wish this summer.
In May, the 20-year-old female driver from Roscoe, Ill., was seating on the sidelines waiting to drive a race car -- any race car.
After impressive performances in England the past three years and winning the Pro Division of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race at Long Beach in April, Patrick was hoping to hit the track in North America on a regular basis.
But opportunities were not coming her way. Not until three-time CART champion Bobby Rahal entered the picture.
Rahal, the 1986 Indy 500 champion and current CART team owner, had watched Patrick compete in England while he was CEO of the Jaguar Formula One team. He had seen the lady's talent and wanted to give her a chance.
In June, Rahal signed Patrick to a contract for the future, bringing her through the CART Ladder System beginning in the Barber Dodge Pro Series.
"Thanks to Bobby, I'm no longer sitting around and waiting," said Patrick, who returns to the Barber Dodge campaign this weekend (Aug. 23-25) in Montreal on the famed Gilles Villeneuve F-1 circuit. "It's been a busy last two months and I am not complaining one bit. This is what I wanted to do and what my racing career needs."
Since joining Team Rahal, Patrick has competed in four Barber Dodge events (with a best fourth at Vancouver), tested a Toyota Atlantic car (the series she plans to race in 2003), driven a historic BMW sedan at Laguna Seca, made numerous promotional tours and campaigned for future sponsorship.
"I wanted to be on the track a lot and that has happened," said Patrick, the former three-time national karting champion. "But I also have been working on possible future sponsors and other promotional activities. It's busy but I love it."
Now Patrick returns to action this week on the legendary road course in Montreal and the 5-foot-1, 100-pounder is very excited about the chance to race on the 2.747-mile road circuit on the Ile Notre Dame.
"Many famous drivers have raced on the Gilles Villeneuve circuit," said Patrick. "I was just born when Gilles was killed in 1982 but his legend continues. I know Bobby (Rahal) race against Gilles quite a bit and he has told me about him. So racing on his track will be a great experience. I'm looking forward to it."
Rahal plans to field a Toyota Atlantic car for Patrick in 2003 and has been a mentor this year in her Barber Dodge Pro Series races.
"It's a good learning curve for Danica this year," said Rahal. "She is new to the winged cars and the tracks here in the U.S. and Canada. But we have tried to get as much seat time for her as possible. She was basically inactive for nearly a year after coming back from England. So we want her to drive a lot. That's Barber Dodge right now, testing Toyota Atlantics, driving go-karts and other cars. It's good for her."