So Rubens Barrichello has decided to set out on a new adventure in his racing career.
After becoming the most experienced Grand Prix driver in history over 19 years in Formula 1, the 39-year old Barrichello will race Indy cars this year teamed with his old friend Tony Kanaan and Venezualen EJ Viso at KVRT Racing. Owned by Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser, the trio of KVRT Dallaras will be powered by Ilmor-Chevrolet 2.2-litre turbo V6s.
Barrichello has often said he didn’t see himself racing on ovals, but after successfully testing a KVRT Indy car at Sebring a month and a half ago he decided to make the move to Indy cars. “I’m over the moon,” Barrichello said. “It’s been a month since I went to test at Sebring. We had no expectations. It was just a test. I was invited by my brother Tony.
“I got to the track and got a fantastic reception. I felt really at home and when I started testing the car I felt good and set good times and then I got the invitation from Jimmy and Kevin to race for them and be part of the team. I felt that I wanted to do it straight away.
“I love what I do. I love the sport and I love the speed. I just feel at home behind the steering wheel and to be able to compete with Tony Kanaan who is a brother for a long time on a team that he already brought up to a different level last year and with Viso as our teammate is great. I think we are going to be able to put the team to a different level again. I love the challenge and I hope that’s what’s going to happen.”
Barrichello talked about telling his wife he had decided he was going to race Indy cars. “One day we were watching an oval race and there was a crash and she looked at me and said, ‘You’re never going to do this are you?’. I said, ‘Well, I don’t plan to because I hope that I’ll be racing Formula 1 forever for like 25 years and then I’ll probably stop.’ But whenever we were talking about Indy in the back of my mind I always wanted to know what is the experience the driver goes through at such a speed.
“My kids helped big time with my wife. They said they want to see daddy racing on the ovals. We had fun one day. It was a set-up. I briefed the boys and we went to mum and Eduardo asked her if it was true that she didn’t want me to race on ovals. She said she would rather have me racing just on normal circuits. Then we had a quorum where all three of us said at the same time, ‘Luckily mum doesn’t tell us what to do!’ It was kind of funny. But she was fine. She knows I’m so happy. She can see in my eyes how happy I am, so she’s happy for me.”
Barrichello believes that this year’s new formula presents an ideal time for him to start racing Indy cars. “I think it’s the right time for me to come in with a new car and carbon brakes, which I’ve been using for the past 19 years,” Rubens said. “Everybody’s going to be learning the new car all season, so it’s a good time. I don’t come from zero because I have a lot of experience and I think I can help the team, which was the first plan when I went to Sebring to test.
“After 20 laps I was able to do competitive times and I was able to help the team to evaluate some bits. I think the team got better from that experience, so I think I can help.
“I love what I do. That’s the most important thing. When you love what you do, you want to search for new things and you have an open mind. Then you can do good things. So I look forward to working with the team on an intense level and hopefully my experience will help everybody.
“Despite all my experience I have no idea how to set up a car on an oval, but I have Tony to tell me what to do. I’m excited that I have him to learn from.”
After losing his ride with Michael Andretti’s team at the end of 2010 Kanaan landed a ride with KVRT just a week before the start of last season and finished fifth in the championship with a best result of second at the Iowa Speedway oval race. Kanaan has done everything possible to lure his old friend Rubeno to KVRT and is delighted to have succeeded.
“I’m extremely happy,” Kanaan said. “It’s a pleasure. We had a great year last year. It wasn’t the year we wanted to have but it was a lot better than when we started. We got some great results last year and now that Rubens is here we’ve got a huge responsibility on our plates this year to take the team to another level.”
Thus far Barrichello has tested twice at Sebring, and run for one day each at Barber Motorsport Park and Sonoma’s Infineon Raceway. His first oval test will come at Texas early in May before practice begins at Indianapolis.
“I don’t know if I’m going to be well-prepared for the first race but what I can promise is that I will push to the very limit,” Rubens said. “I want to help myself, Tony, EJ and the team to get to the very top. I’m really excited and I will give it all. If that’s good enough for us to do all we want to do, which is win, we will have to wait and see.”
Barrichello will celebrate his 40th birthday on May 23, four days before his rookie start in this year’s Indianapolis 500. “I can’t be any happier,” he added. “It’s a chance that’s been given to me. After all the years of competitive racing I still have a lot of speed in myself and I want to do this so much. I’m truly happy and excited about the season. I love the idea that I’m a rookie. That makes me young. I’m really enjoying that.”