BELGIUM KARTING CHAMPION AND F3000 UPSTART TO DRIVE FOR TEAM CHEEVER AT INDY Wim Eyckmans will take the helm of the ...
BELGIUM KARTING CHAMPION AND F3000 UPSTART TO DRIVE FOR TEAM CHEEVER AT INDY Wim Eyckmans will take the helm of the #52 GForce for the 83rd running of the Indianapolis 500
Indianapolis, IN -- Team Cheever announced today that Belgium born, Wim Eyckmans, will take the helm of the #52 Team Cheever GForce for the 83rd running of the Indianapolis 500. Karting Champion Eyckmans is in Indy this week participating in the Rookie Orientation.
"We are delighted that Wim has elected to join Team Cheever for this historic race," said Eddie Cheever, Jr., Team Cheever owner and reigning Indy 500 winner. "Wim has the heart to accomplish great things and we are looking forward to helping him reach those goals."
"Naturally, as a young driver, the chance to work with an Indy 500 champion winning team and driver is a dream," commented Wim Eyckmans. "With Eddie, however, I also get the opportunity to work with a driver who came from a similar road racing background. Better than anyone else, Eddie can help me make the transition from European circuits to ovals."
Ovals may be new to Eyckmans, but aggressively and relentlessly pursuing his dream to be a top driver is not. Following the typical European path to Formula One, Wim, by age 17, was a Champion several times over. In 1988, Eyckmans was named Vice-European Karting Champion and by 1990 was a four-time International Limburg Karting Champion. He then made the move to Opel-GM-Lotus racing and had secured the Vice-Championship by 1993.
"If you take a look at Wim's career, you'll see what I mean about his courage," explained Cheever. "The moves he made from Karts to Opel-GM-Lotus to F3000 were almost audacious. So when you study his history, for him to think that the Indy 500 is his next step, seems to make sense."
In order to keep aggressively climbing the racing latter, Wim and his family began financing their own F3000 effort and to make ends meet, Wim played not only the role of driver, but also Chief Mechanic. On a limited budget, Eyckmans placed an astonishing sixth place in his first F3000 race and then, in three other races he attended, was running in the Top Three before experiencing equipment failure. In an effort to begin to lay the groundwork for a spot in Indy, last year, Eyckmans ran three Indy Lights races with a highlight of a 10th qualifying slot at his first showing at Fontana and running second fastest in practice.
"I believe that if you have the right elements in your package...funding, equipment and team...then you must jump at opportunity. We had a chance to run Indy last year, but decided that our program was too rushed and would not see the results. Instead, we elected to pursue the Indy Lights series as a training ground," Eyckmans further explained. "This year, we are coming into the event with all the right elements in place."
Eyckmans will have large shoes to fill as he steps behind the wheel of the #52 Team Cheever race. In 1997, Jeff Ward took the helm of the #52 machine and brought home the Indy 500 Rookie of The Year race honors; in 1998, Robby Unser continued the tradition and claimed the overall Rookie of the Year honors for the series.
"Qualifying for Indy is one of the most difficult tasks a driver can challenge himself with," added Cheever. "What impressed us about Wim was his courage and his determination. Having very little experience on oval adds to the challenge for both Wim and Team Cheever. We have a good environment for bringing up rookies and a history to prove it."
Wim Eyckmans' primary sponsor, E.G.P., based in Brussels, was founded in 1997 and, after several years of testing, has introduced a line of environmentally safe cleaning products for the home and business arenas.