Battistini gets break with Conquest Racing
Dillon Battistini approaches his IZOD IndyCar Series debut in the Kentucky Indy 300 much the same as he would any other race: Get a feel for the car quickly, provide succinct and proper feedback, and race as hard as he can.
Also, there's input from Conquest Racing team owner Eric Bachelart: "Don't try to impress in one shot." That's both advice and a directive.
"It's sound advice, but at the same time I don't know how many opportunities I'll get to impress in an IndyCar because I'm not the sort of driver that can run off and get my family to pay to do another race if this goes badly," said Battistini, 33, of England, who will drive the No. 34 car in the 200-lap race Oct. 2. "So I really want to do well. I'm not going to pussyfoot it, but at the same time I respect Eric's advice. I have to bring the car home and put in a solid performance."
Battistini, who passed his IZOD IndyCar Series rookie orientation Sept. 23 at Kentucky Speedway, won on the 1.5-mile oval in a Panther Racing car in 2008 and tested the team's IndyCar the same season. He hasn't had a regular ride for the past three seasons, but he's not been out of mind or view.
"I've been hanging around the IndyCar paddock as often as I can possibly make it," said the four-time Firestone Indy Lights race winner. "Since I stopped racing Indy Lights regularly I've managed to put together the odd one-off race in a Lights car. But I've done my best to stay in close contact with all the IndyCar teams this whole time and just been working at raising a budget, which has been just so difficult in the economic climate.
"I've finally managed to put something together and am massively thankful to Eric because I have a lot of respect for him with his tendency to give opportunities to up-and-coming drivers who might not otherwise get a chance at all. I hope I can repay his faith."
Battistini's faith in his abilities has been the driving force since coming to the States to race after wrapping up the 2007 Asian Formula 3 championship.
"I started racing when I was 9 and it instantly became my ambition to become a professional driver and I've come a long way, been through a lot of ups and downs," he said. "I'm now 33 years old and I feel like I'm getting pretty close to achieving my goal. I've come so far and now that I'm close I have to follow through. I can't turn back now, and it means a lot to me obviously or I wouldn't have been out there to keep going over the last three years.
"It's difficult because if you're not in the car regularly you're forgotten quite quickly, and that's why I've been in the paddock as much as possible. Friends and family don't understand; it's not an option. It's definitely where I want to be."
Bachelart, who turned over the wheel of the No. 34 Dallara to rookie Sebastian Saavedra for 14 races this season and to Joao Paulo de Oliveira for the road course race at Twin Ring Motegi on Sept. 18, believes Battistini can obtain all of their objectives.
"He has worked very hard and has always kept focus on the goal of moving up and after achieving a lot of success in the Firestone Indy Lights series he is now ready for this challenge," Bachelart said. "We had a good rookie test with him last week, obviously coming in to the second-to-last race in a series as competitive as IndyCar is not easy, the competition is extremely high, but we are confident that as a team we can help him get up to speed quickly and give him a car that he can go and compete with everybody out there."