Although Rubens Barrichello reportedly told his wife once that he would never race Indy cars — the memory of fellow Brazilian Nelson Piquet’s trip into the Indianapolis wall still vivid — the news that he will test a KV Racing Dallara-Chevrolet at Sebring next week should come as no surprise.
When Emmerson Fittipaldi’s F1 career ended, he went to CART. So did Raul Boesel, Cristiano da Matta, Christian Fittipaldi, Mauricio Gugelmin, Roberto Morena and Alex Ribeiro.
Non-Brazilian F1 drivers who’ve switched to the Indy car ranks include Sebastien Bourdais (a back-and-forth, actually), Juan Pablo Montoya, Timo Glock, Alex Zanardi (ditto), Justin Wilson and, perhaps the most famous, Nigel Mansell in 1993, the year after he won the world championship.
Tony Kanaan drives for KV Racing, so there’s the link. As well as being fellow Brazilians, Kanaan and Barrichello are close friends and even switched helmet liveries once with Barrichello wearing Kanaan’s in the 2006 Grand Prix of Monaco and Kanaan wearing Rubens’ in that year’s Indy 500 (both races were on the same day).
And just the way Rubens has been talking indicates he is not yet ready to stop race-driving. “I have a lot of speed left in me yet,” he said as recently as last weekend after finding out that Bruno Senna would replace him at Williams.
If Barrichello makes the move, I suggest other F1 drivers without a ride in F1 this season will take a strong look at the IZOD IndyCar Series. Why? Because CART was once considered a viable alternative to F1 and today’s IndyCar series is looking very much like that again.
Although there is just once chassis, the Dallara, there are now three engine manufacturers in the primarily road-and-street circuit series and there are not really any weak teams. Yes, Penske, Ganassi and Andretti will be expected to lead the way but none of the teams expected to run the full series will really be also-rans so an unemployed F1 driver like Jaime Alguesuari, say, would not be out of line taking sponsorship money to Dale Coyne Racing, which announced this week it will run with Honda power and Justin Wilson aboard one of its two cars.
Vitaly Petrov is also without employment at the moment and is too young and too good to be content driving in one Friday practice session as a reserve.
It’s better to do what guys like Montoya, Zanardi and Bourdais did — stay active and dominate — than to hover around F1 in the background like an obedient puppy.
There are only a few seats left in IndyCar at the moment but if Barrichello is sniffing around, the chances are very good that there will be others.
The first race of the Rolex 24 at Daytona weekend will go to the post Friday. About a dozen Canadians are entered in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge BMW Performance 200 (whew — what a mouthful!).
Ashley McCalmont of Ancaster in a Camaro; Emmanuel Anassis of Montreal in a Mustang; Jean-Francois Dumoulin of Trois-Rivieres in a Porsche; Scott Maxwell of Toronto in an Aston Martin Vantage; David Empringham of Toronto teaming with John Farano, also of Toronto, in a Porsche; Frank Rossi of Kleinberg teaming with Fraser Wellon of Mississauga in a Porsche; Paul Dalla Lana of Toronto in a BMW; Brad Wood of Brantford in a Honda Civic; Taylor Hacquard of Vancouver in a MazdaSpeed3 and Michael Valiante of Vancouver in a Honda Civic.
Now, Multimatic Motorsports of Markham has cars entered, as does Karl Thomson’s Compass360 Racing team of Toronto. Speaking of Compass360, the following release arrived in my emailbox this week:
“Compass360 Racing is no stranger to winning on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway, having been on the Street Tuner podium four straight years from 2007 to 2010. To extend that impressive result the team has assembled a driver roster for this weekend's Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race that's arguably the strongest it's ever had, counting three former series champions and one runner-up in the squad.
“Grand-Am's 2007 ST Champion Adam Burrows will share the #74 Dr. Kimberly Henry / Speed Secrets / HPD Honda Civic Si with Andrew Novich, who impressed the team in his rookie year the previous season.
"I'm excited to be back with Compass360 Racing and all the guys, especially Andrew, who I think is going to impress a lot of people this year," noted Burrows. "Coming into a series this competitive as a rookie is a real challenge, and I know Andrew finished fourth here last year, so we're shooting for a podium finish in 2012."
“Burrows last ran with C360R in 2008, co-driving with 2007 ST Champion Trevor Hopwood, who will drive the #77 Joe Marina Honda / Luna-C / HPD car with Bo Roach.
"Like Adam, I'm thrilled to be back in a C360R Honda after a couple of years in other cars." remarked Hopwood. "These guys have always been at the front, and I have a really good feeling about this race."
The Daytona event is particularly meaningful as Roach, promoter of Midnight Drags at Tulsa Raceway Park, is returning to Grand-Am racing after a two-year absence. "Running this race, with support from Joe Marina Honda in Tulsa, on the 50th running of the Rolex is just so amazing," enthused Roach, who turns 50 this weekend. "It's a 50-50 race for me!"
David Thilenius, the third former champ in the line-up, won the Grand-Am Street Tuner in 2010 with Compass360 Racing. He's returning for his third straight season with the team, sharing the #76 Metropolitan Foods / HPD Honda with John Kuitwaard, who after a number of years doing select races has signed on for a full campaign.
"I'm looking forward to driving last year's car without the restrictor!" laughed Thilenius. "The Hondas have always been good cars at Daytona, and although we know the rest of the field is very strong I'm hoping to get a good points haul this weekend."
Last year's Street Tuner battle was a fight to the finish in the season finale, and if not for being spun out in the closing stages by a Mazda, Ryan Eversley might have won the title for C360R. As it was, he finished second, one better than in 2010.
This year he's aiming for the top spot, co-driving with veteran Grand-Am competitor Ray Mason in the #75 Columbus Truck / Children's Wish Foundation / HPD car.
"Ray (Lee) and the Compass boys have been working on this new 2012 Civic for the past six months and at the test a few weeks ago, I was really impressed," exclaimed Eversley. "For a new car, I think it's going to be ready to go right out of the box."
The Continental Tire Daytona race starts at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, and will air on the Speed TV channel Feb. 4 at noon.