Former Grand Prix driver Jean Alesi has confirmed that his first-ever attempt at the Indianapolis 500 will be in an entry run by the great Newman/Haas Racing team, which had previously made the shock announcement of its withdrawal from the championship during the off-season.
The 47-year-old Frenchman will make his oval racing debut in his role as a Lotus ambassador at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s famous race on May 27.
While the Newman/Haas team may have announced its withdrawal from IndyCar competition in 2012, it has provided technical assistance to Dragon Racing during the pre-season, and it will now field Alesi one a one-off basis.
“We have a lot of details still to decide, such as when I’ll be in the car for the first time, all those kind of things. For me, it’s fantastic because I need as much support as I can get,” a thrilled Alesi told AUTOSPORT.
“I am extremely excited about it. I’m not worried, but I feel a big pressure on me. I will try to be as fit as possible and to be in top condition to do a good job.”
Understandably given his lack of oval-racing experience, few are expecting Alesi to make the 33-car qualifying cut.
“I am taking it very seriously,” he answered. “I have massive experience in motorsport, but it’s the first time for me in this kind of competition.
“I need to be low-profile, to fulfil the expectation of the team, and I’m sure I will perform.”
The flamboyant French-Sicilian will have to undergo the same rookie orientation process at the Speedway as all first-time Indy 500 racers, which will involve him demonstration a competent ability to drive an IndyCar at progressively increasing speeds. He will be joined by fellow oval rookie Rubens Barrichello.
“The process is very big, and I want to start without any kind of worry to be in the top speeds straight away. I want to follow the procedure and get a good feeling at lower speed, to build up to a reasonable speed,” he added.