Former Grand Prix driver Jean Alesi has graduated from the mandatory Indianapolis 500 ‘Rookie Orientation Program’ with flying colours, with series officials declaring that the 47-year-old Frenchman can now qualify for this month’s classic oval race in what will be his debut appearance in the series, as well as his first-ever oval race.
Alesi – along with fellow Indianapolis rookies Rubens Barrichello, Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, Bryan Clauson and Katherine Legge – was required to demonstrate his proficiency behind the wheel of a Dallara DW12 at progressively increasing speeds over the course of this weekend’s practice sessions in order to be declared competent to race around the iconic oval circuit.
The Frenchman – running in a Lotus-backed entry run by the Fan Force United Indy Lights team – had struggled to run above the 210mph mark, which he needed to crack in order to achieve the ROP requirements.
Taking advantage of a tow afforded to him by Penske’s three drivers, Alesi finally got above the marker in the final hour of yesterday’s practice session. With some extra confidence now in his pocket, he was able to run above 210mph later in the session without the need to pick up a draft from other drivers.
By the end of the day’s running, Alesi’s best lap time was an average speed of 211.516mph in his Lotus-powered entry.
IndyCar rookie Josef Newgarden finished fastest overall in his Honda-powered Sarah Fisher Hartman, with a fastest average lap speed of 222.486mph.