Michel Jourdain Jr will return to American open-wheel competition after an eight-year absence to drive the second Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing entry at this year’s Indianapolis, the team has announced.
The Mexican replaces GP2 runner-up Luca Filippi, whose deal with the team will instead commence at the following round at Detroit.
After success in the junior formulae in his homeland, Jourdain Jr made his American open-wheeler debut in 1996 with the Indy Racing League and CART championships as a nineteen-year-old, becoming one of the youngest drivers in either championship’s history to compete.
With considerable backing from Mexican sponsors, he remained in CART/ChampCar for a further eight seasons. His first few seasons with the Payton/Coyne and Bettenhausen Racing teams saw him achieve little in the way of decent results, but a switch to Bobby Rahal’s outfit saw him blossom, peaking with two wins en route to finishing third in the standings in 2003.
After leaving ChampCar at the end of 2004, Jourdain Jr dabbled in a host of racing categories, including NASCAR, the World Touring Car Championship, A1GP and even occasional World Rally Championship appearances.
No 35, Jourdain Jr faces a steep mountain to climb to not only be fit enough for May’s big oval race, but also to be quick enough to qualify in a completely unfamiliar car.
“I have been working out harder than ever to make sure I am as fit as possible,” he said. “I know it is a huge challenge, to drive at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after so long and with this type of car, but I hope that I will feel at home in a few days.”
The Mexico City-born driver is also thrilled to be reunited with his old boss Rahal once again.
“My best years professionally came with Bobby Rahal,” he added. “I am extremely happy about this new opportunity.”
Jourdain Jr’s one and only Indy 500 appearance came in his debut season fourteen years ago. He finished 13th driving for Team Scandia.