Video: Defending Indy 500 Champ to race in Gold Coast 600
Dan Wheldon will join the rest of the top IndyCar drivers in Surfers Paradise in October. The travesty of it all is that with half the IndyCar field there anyway, why isn't IndyCar still part of this event?
The organizers of the Armor All Gold Coast 600 received another massive boost today when two-time and reigning Indianapolis 500 winner, Dan Wheldon was signed for the October 21-23 V8 Supercar event.
Wheldon, a US-based Englishman, will drive for the Toll Holden Racing Team with defending V8 Supercar Series Champion and his good friend, James Courtney.
HRT’s other entry will be driven by former V8 Supercars champion Garth Tander and Australian IndyCar star, Ryan Briscoe.
Wheldon is currently without a full-time ride and his only serious start for the year came back in May at Indianapolis when he made a one-off appearance for a part-time team owned by former driver, Bryan Herta.
With one turn remaining in the 800-turn race, rookie and race leader JR Hildebrand crashed and was left sliding along the outside wall as Wheldon cruised underneath him to take one of the most memorable victories in the 500’s 100-year history.
Wheldon, who also won the Indy 500 and IndyCar Series in 2005, will join three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves and 2008 winner Scott Dixon on the streets of Surfers Paradise.
The Wheldon announcement means that there are just two more drivers to be confirmed for the event in which all 28 cars must include an international driver who must complete at least 30 per cent of the 300km distance on both Saturday and Sunday.
The field also includes seven current or former Formula One drivers, former British, Spanish, Italian, European and World Touring Car champions. Winners of some of the world’s greatest endurance events including the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, Sebring 12-hour and the Daytona and Le Mans 24-hour races.
The event will again have a unique Rock ‘n’ Race format with Friday night’s entertainment including Drapht, Potbelleez, Bag Raiders, Tonite Only and Illy at the Broadwater Parklands.
Legendary rock acts the Hoodoo Gurus, Eskimo Joe and Masters Apprentices will blast out some homegrown hits before international headline act Simple Minds close the show the following night.
It will not be the first time that Wheldon has raced on the Gold Coast, having finished 11th for Panther Racing in the event’s final IndyCar race in 2008.
Queensland Minister for Sport, Phil Reeves, said the signing of Wheldon added again to an already star-studded field.
"The story of Dan Wheldon winning the Indy 500 in a one-off drive is one of the great sports stories of 2011," said Reeves.
"Just when you thought the depth of the international field could not get any better, Dan signs with HRT to create a terrific combination with the Gold Coast’s own James Courtney.
"The Bligh Government is a big supporter of this internationally-recognized event and we look forward to it showcasing the Gold Coast and Queensland to more than 130 countries around the world."
DAN WHELDON – TOLL HOLDEN RACING TEAM
"I was devastated not to do the event last year and I am obviously thrilled to be invited by the Toll Holden Racing Team to drive with James (Courtney) at October’s event," said Wheldon.
"I have been to the Gold Coast before in an IndyCar and the atmosphere and crowd that surround the entire event is phenomenal.
"I will be one of the few drivers who has not been in one of these cars before so it will be important to get as much as possible out of the test day on the Wednesday (of race week).
"I have only done one race this year and I was fortunate enough to win the Indy 500. There is a chance this might be the only other race I do this year and I will be taking it extremely seriously.
"I want my preparation to be spot on and hopefully we can have a really solid result and keep the momentum going.
"I know that heading to the race with HRT, I will have some of the best equipment available and it will be bolted together by some of the best guys around.
"I have also made no secret of the fact that I would love to come into V8 Supercars on a full-time basis and obviously that adds a bit of pressure, as does the fact that the team are racing for championship points at a pretty interesting stage of the season.
"I think the whole international format for this event is incredible and has given the Gold Coast race a whole new audience around the world.
"The Gold Coast is a magnificent place and it is topped off every year with this fantastic event which really is one of the best in world motorsports.
"I am looking forward to getting down there and doing the job."
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