NTT IndyCar Series star Tony Kanaan is among the legends set to compete live in a virtual Indy 500 this Saturday on ESPN. The 44-year-old Brazilian, about to start his farewell tour in IndyCar after making his debut in 1998, drove into Victory Lane and drank the milk in 2013, making him one of the two most recent winners of the great American race who’ll take the green flag in the Torque Esports event, and there’s a special significance in what lies ahead.
For a man who ranks as the most popular driver at the real Indy 500, getting the chance to race against the likes of 1969 Indy 500 winner Mario Andretti, who makes his sim racing debut on Saturday, and countryman Emerson Fittipaldi—the man who won two Formula 1 world championships, two Indy 500s, and opened the door for Brazilians in IndyCar—the virtual event is the stuff of childhood fantasy.
“We’ve been doing Legends the past several weeks and I’ve been there since Day 1,” he told Road & Track. “Some of the names that I could never have the opportunity to race in my life–my racing heroes–and now we are at my dream track with all of them. It’s a really cool initiative and I can’t wait to do this.”
And that’s where the ESPN broadcast will offer something different from other Esports races held during the global coronavirus pandemic. The assembly of all-time greats, recently retired IndyCar stars, and big names from other forms of the sport whose careers were forged in Europe, coming together for a virtual Indy 500 has the mark of something special.
With the real Indy 500 originally scheduled for Sunday having been pushed back to August 23, the Torque Esports event is the only one of its kind to offer fans a modicum of normalcy on Memorial Day weekend. Joining Andretti, Fittipaldi, and Kanaan, 2003 Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran, two-time winner Juan Pablo Montoya, and three-timers Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti bring the Brickyard victory tally to 13.
“I have a pretty steep learning curve ahead of me. It’s been a long time since I’ve been a rookie at Indianapolis,” said Andretti, who celebrated the 50th anniversary of his 1969 Indy 500 win last May. “I’m trying to learn as quickly as possible and I hope I can deal with some of these young stars. I’ll just commit and hope I’m competitive.”
The 80-year-old icon will face off against nearly 30 drivers, including two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso, who made his one and only Indy 500 start in 2017 driving for Mario’s son Michael.
“I was looking forward to heading back to the speedway and racing for real this weekend but the All-Stars esports event is a great way to keep sharp,” Alonso said.
“These guys are all great champions and everyone’s racing instincts really transfer across into the virtual world. I’m also getting the chance to race against some absolute legends of Indy including Mario Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi. That is an incredible opportunity.”
Veterans of Le Mans, F1, and the WRC will add to the flavor as Petter Solberg, Mika Salo, David Brabham, Jan Magnussen, Andy Priaulx, Darren Turner, Emanuele Pirro, Jason Plato, Tiago Monteiro, Tom Coronel, Vitantonio Liuzzi, and more are expected to join in.
Source: Read Full Article