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Indy 500 Exclusive - Our F1 Man goes to Indy.

By Nicholas Frankl

I cannot remember the last time I was in the press room at 5:45 am on race day. But this is the 87th running on the Indy 500 and that’s all part of the long tradition of what is, after all, “the greatest spectacle in motor racing”

Part of the tradition has always been the date clash with he F1 race in Monaco and subsequently I have never been able to attend this automotive pageant – the equivalent in petrolhead terms of the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Of course I follow in the footsteps of some awesome Formula One drivers who have raced here, including Clark, Hill, Fitipaldi, Hulme, Andretti, and ‘our Nigel’ Mansell. Any trip to the brickyard wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Museum. You just don’t get the same historical perspective without it. One of the highlights for me was certainly seeing the incredible array of trophies on display from the late Rudolph Caracciola. His win from the German Grand Prix in 1937 yielding one of the spookiest trophies I’ve ever seen, as it is inlaid with a golden swastika and a name plate from one Adolf Hitler. How times have happily changed! For the car trivia cognoscenti, I can also confirm that the first rear-view mirror was pioneered here at the speedway on the 1911 winner, the yellow Marmon wasp.

Having driven around the tracks at Monaco, SPA, the Hungaroring, Brands Hatch, Silverstone Monza, Suzuka, and Le Mans to name but a few – there was no way I wasn’t going for a run around ‘the great one’. GM was happy to oblige with a couple of laps in their beautiful new SSR pace car. With a 300 bhp, short block, V8 booming away and hair blowing in the wind, the three laps just didn’t last long enough. One thing any F1 fan will notice on a trip to Indianapolis is just how damn friendly everyone is. I don’t know how many press officers I’ve met since my first trip to a GP at age six weeks old – but I think it’s safe to say there have been a few and none more charming and helpful than Deb Taylor and her team in the press office here. The FIA might do well to take a few leaves out of the Indy 500 book….

In just a few hours the engines will start for the 87th Indy 500. Castroneves is on pole and the Penske car is obviously very capable. I would put my money on him for a famous 3rd straight win, but don’t rule out Scott Dixon on the 2nd row and even Michael Andretti, who will retire from racing when the chequered flag drops. You can never discount the effects of emotion of bringing out the best in a driver.