Lotus confirms Alesi Indy 500 entry
One of Jean Alesi's first stops upon arriving May 7 in Indianapolis was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and it wasn't to tour the museum.
The 47-year-old former Formula One veteran of 13 seasons announced in September that he sought to compete in the Indianapolis 500 for the first time for the "mighty but hugely attractive challenge," and with official paperwork submitted to INDYCAR on May 8 he took the initial step to making it a realization.
On May 10, Alesi will join seven other first-year competitors in the Rookie Orientation Program at the 2.5-mile oval in a Lotus-powered Dallara entered by Firestone Indy Lights team Fan Force United. Alesi is a Lotus ambassador and his personal sponsor, FP Journe - a Swiss watchmaker - is the primary sponsor of the Month of May effort.
"I feel ready for the Indy 500, but also I am very happy to be doing the rookie test ahead of real practice," said Alesi, who last week spent two days at the Dallara Automobili factory in Italy learning about the Speedway and car set-ups on its sophisticated simulator. "This will give me time to gain confidence and the feeling for the car and the track. The race is now just three weeks away, and we're going to be working flat out up to that date.
"We've been talking about this race for a long time and trying to find the right team to go with. I'm very happy to be joining Fan Force United. Lotus believes it's the right place for me to be, and I trust the team completely and am sure we will do a super job."
Former Indy car driver Tyce Carlson, Jason Peters, Scott Williamson and Chris Williams comprise the ownership group of Fan Force United, which also will have two entries in the Firestone Freedom 100 at the Speedway on May 25 (Emerson Newton-John and Firestone Indy Lights regular Armaan Ebrahim).
"Our goal has always been to win the Indy 500, but first you must qualify and we are working hard to achieve that with Jean and Lotus," Williams said. "Our team has a huge amount of experience, which will hopefully help Jean to achieve his goals."
Former Indy car team owner Greg Beck is joined by team manager by Indy 500-winning engineer Tim Wardrop and team manager Ted Bitting.
Alesi made 201 F1 starts with six teams, the last with Jordan in the 2001 Japanese Grand Prix. In his debut in 1989 - replacing Michele Alboreto for the French Grand Prix for Tyrrell Racing - Alesi finished fourth. He has since competed in the German Touring Car Championship (DTM), the Speedcar Series and in the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2010).
"It's going to be very interesting to see how far natural skill can get him," Lotus said in a statement.