Former Formula One and IndyCar champion Jacques Villeneuve will attempt a comeback at this year's Indianapolis 500 at the age of 42, race team co-owners San Schmidt and Ric Peterson said Wednesday.
The Canadian driver was the 1994 IndyCar Rookie of the Year and 1995 Indy 500 winner and IndyCar season champion, setting the stage for a successful F1 career that saw him win the 1997 world championship a year after he was runner-up to Britain's Damon Hill.
“I've been fortunate enough to compete in several of the world's top racing series and nothing excites me more than entering the IndyCar Series at its current level of competitiveness,” Villeneueve said.
“To have the opportunity to return to IndyCar racing and the Indianapolis 500 is something I never thought possible. If you have to win one race in the whole of your career, the Indy 500 is the one in any form of motorsports.”
Villeneueve, who now serves as an F1 commentator and races in World Rallycross, said he began talking with Schmidt a few weeks ago after watching last season's races and feeling a stir toward climbing back behind the wheel in an open-cockpit race car.
ITCHING TO RACE
“It all went fast,” Villeneueve said. “The discussions happened at the right time because I had been watching the IndyCars last year and it looked extremely exciting, to the point where I was angry and jealous that I wasn't racing. So that got me going again.”
Villeneueve had raced US stock cars, events in Australia and elsewhere but gave IndyCar little thought during a bitter fight for control that led to rival IndyCar groups before a re-merger.
“It's getting back to the glory days with the races exciting and also the field of drivers is becoming more and more impressive every year,” Villeneueve said.
Villeneueve, Brazil's Emerson Fittipaldi and American legend Mario Andretti are the only drivers to win the Indy 500, F1 crown and IndyCar season titles in their careers.
“I'm a racer at heart and I will always be. That's what keeps me going. That's what keeps me alive,” Villeneueve said.
“I don't want to be for my kids just the guy that used to race that they can see in books. I want them to see and live what I've already lived, to see it through my doing it actively.”
Villeneueve won 11 Formula One Grand Prix before he moved in 2007 to US stock cars.
His most recent start at the famed 2 1/2-mile Indy oval was at the 2010 Brickyard 400 stock car race.
Villeneueve will be joined for the 500 by full-time Schmidt IndyCar drivers Simon Pagenaud of France and Mikhail Aleshin of Russia.
If Villeneueve qualifies for the 98th running of the Indy 500 on May 25, the 19 years between Indy 500 starts will be a record, surpassing the old mark of 17 by Cy Marshall and Roland Free between 1930 and 1947.