Former Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve will make his open-wheel racing comeback, announcing plans to enter this year’s famous oval race.
Almost twenty years after his victorious outing in 1995, Villeneuve will compete in a third entry being fielded by the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports stable.
Villeneuve shot to prominence by winning the 1995 CART IndyCar World Series crown with Forsythe Racing, with the highlight being his victory at the Indy 500, having finished third on his debut at the Superspeedway a year before.
Villeneuve sensationally recovered from a questionable two-lap penalty to win the 1995 race by two seconds, and his performance brought him to the attention of the Williams F1 team, with whom he won the Formula 1 World Championship title two years later.
It will be the 42-year-old’s first open-wheel race since the 2006 German Grand Prix with the BMW Sauber F1 team.
Since his sudden – but not unexpected – departure from F1, Villeneuve has made sporadic appearances in a host of championship categories, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the NASCAR series and the V8 Supercars Championship.
More recently, he announced he would make his rallycross debut in the inaugural FIA World RallyCross Championship, which kicks off later this year.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to compete in several of the world’s top racing series, and nothing excites me more than entering the IndyCar Series at its current level of competitiveness,” Villeneuve said of his latest racing adventure.
“Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has proven itself able to compete with the largest of teams, and I am excited to get to work with [team co-owner] Sam [Schmidt] and the team and start preparing for May.”
With the SPM team taking lead driver Simon Pagenaud to an impressive third place in last year’s IndyCar Series points standings, the team believes that the high-profile signing of Villeneuve is a clear indication of the team’s progress.
“We’re very pleased to have a driver of the calibre of Jacques in our line-up in May,” team owner Sam Schmidt said.
“He’s a former winner in the event and brings tremendous experience from his success in the world’s top racing series. The trust Jacques is putting in Schmidt Peterson Motorsports also validates the progress all of our team members have made in creating an organisation capable of competing with anyone.”
Villeneuve will join fellow ex-F1 and NASCAR outcast Juan Pablo Montoya in this year’s line-up, with the Colombian also out to recapture his IndyCar glory days when he won the 1999 title with Chip Ganassi Racing.
The last ex-F1 racer to attempt the Indianapolis 500 was former Ferrari driver Jean Alesi, who launched a hopelessly ambitious attempt with the Fan Force United team to enter the 2012 race.
Equipped with the dreadful Lotus engine, the Frenchman qualified bog last and was ordered out of the race after less than dozen laps when he and fellow Lotus runner Simona de Silvestro were deemed too slow to compete.
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