Its been 19 years since Jacques Villeneuve last raced in the Indianapolis 500, winning the race and going on to win the CART series title in 1995. This year he will attempt to set the record for the largest gap between Indianapolis 500 starts when he gets behind the wheel for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the race in May.
Jacques Villeneuve to Race in the Indy 500
The 42-year-old Villeneuve will be SPM’s third driver in the event, behind Simon Pagenaud and rookie Mikhail Aleshin. It has been nearly eight years since Villeneuve has been involved in open wheel racing, when he was part of the BMW Sauer team in the 2006 F1 season. Villeneuve was the F1 World Champion in 1997.
“To have the opportunity to return to Indy car racing and the Indianapolis 500 is something I never thought possible,” Villeneuve said in a team release. “The memories I have there will stay with me for the rest of my life, and I’m excited to create new memories in 2014.”
Villeneuve was also the Indianapolis 500 rookie of the year in 2004, finishing second.
“Having grown up in Canada, the name Villeneuve is synonymous with winning,” team co-owner Ric Peterson said. “I was even there in person when he won the Indy 500 in 1995, and Jacques being the only Canadian to win that huge event, it gave me a huge sense of national pride. It is an honor to have the opportunity to be involved in bringing Jacques back to the ‘500,’ and we look forward to a fantastic result.”
The 19 years in-between starts for Villeneuve would better the mark set by Roland Free and Cy Marshall in 1947. Both drivers had a 17-year gap in between starting the 1930 and 1947 Indianapolis 500 races.
Villeneuve who has long maintained a “been there, done that” type of attitude towards Indy Cars, says that his attitude changed after seeing the racing in the new generation of cars introduced in 2012.
“It looked really exciting with the new cars, to the point that I was getting angry and jealous because I was not racing, so that got me going again,” said Villeneuve. “It reminded me of when I was a kid and I was watching racing – how exciting it was – and that’s what made me becoming a race car driver and I was getting that feeling again watching it.”
The Indy 500 will be Villeneuve’s only IndyCar race this year, which is disappointing to his Canadian fans who would have liked to see him race closer to home, perhaps in the Honda Toronto Indy.
“Doing just a race like Toronto is really stacking it against you,” he said. “It’s a very hard racetrack and you don’t get the mileage like you do at Indy. It’s not really something you just jump into.
“As a one-off, the Indy 500 is the one that stands out it – is the biggest race in the world.”
Villeneuve cited his busy schedule which includes being an F1 Television Commentator in Italy, and driving in the FIA World Rallycross Championship for Albetech Racing, as reasons for making this a one-off event.
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