“Marco raced against us in A1GP and Michael would come to see me on weekends. It was quite an easy conversation to have: ‘What about IndyCar?’”
Fast forward a few months and Carroll found himself on the grid at Watkins Glen driving for Andretti Autosport. Not only that, but he qualified an impressive 10th, besting three of his four team-mates: Indy 500 winners Tony Kanaan and Ryan Hunter-Raey, plus open-wheel golden girl Danica Patrick.
“We started beside Justin Wilson, with Scott Dixon in front of me. The guys were around me that were proper established IndyCar drivers,” he says.
Despite fading to 16th in the race, Andretti was impressed. It was all systems go: Adam Carroll in IndyCar 2011.
“I was there being a part of the Andretti team at the Indy 500, watching and learning as much as I could,” Carroll recalls. “We were all pushing towards the full-time IndyCar car seat for 2011.
“Then, in the end, the budget was $1.5m dollars short. So that was it for me in IndyCar, it was over. It was just frustrating.”
With that latest crushing blow, it looked like Carroll was out of single-seaters for good. He picked up GT rides over the next few years in British GT and the European Le Mans Series, before a new door opened: Formula E.
“Adrian Campos, bless his soul, always thought of me when he or someone needed a drive. When Mahindra needed a reserve driver, he called me up and said ‘Are you coming to Argentina this weekend?’
Carroll impressed in IndyCar, but budget wasn’t sufficient
Robert Laberge/Getty Images
“So I got on the plane to Buenos Aires, and actually realised I actually knew a lot of people in the FE pitlane. I heard Jaguar were coming in, so I got talking to them, and they signed me up for 2015.”
Was this Carroll’s big moment? Eased out of BAR-Honda, unable to take up F1 drive offers, foiled by failed budgets with Andretti, it seemed like all that pain might finally be behind him – all the toil was worth it.
“I thought: ‘Ok! Formula E with a major manufacturer, this is more like it!’
Somehow it all seemed to play out to a familiar tune. Whilst the big cat promised much, it delivered very little.
“It’s obviously very high level, it’s pretty intense. The technical side of it is very, very complex,” says Carroll.
“I really hoped I’d get a good few seasons – then I would’ve been happy”
“So just getting the car to run and perform properly, wasn’t that easy to do.
“Unfortunately, it just didn’t work out for me. I’ve never gone into the details why, and I’m not going to now. It was just unfortunate.”
Being let go by Jaguar left a particularly bitter taste for the Northern Irishman.
“The harder side of that was I’d really put everything into Formula E, because I really hoped that over the next five years or so, I’d get a good few seasons at a high-level championship,” he says.
“Then I would’ve been genuinely been happy to say ‘Right, ok, I’ve had a good run at it, I can be content with that.’
Jaguar FE drive promised much, delivered little
Andrew Ferraro/LAT Photographic/Jaguar Racing via Getty Images
“I’d also given up other regular drives in WEC and GT to concentrate on Jaguar. Picking them up again and just getting back in was pretty much impossible. So you’re back to square one again.”
As has been the defining characteristic of his career though, Carroll has simply not given up. He kept his eye in with GT cars, eventually winning the Ferrari Challenge World Final in 2019 at Mugello.
For 2021 he’s taken on a mentoring role with the Greystone GT squad, helping to develop team-mate Mark Hopton, who has stepped up from Greystone-run track days. The pair will share a GT4 McLaren in the GT Cup.
“With my experience I can help them as much as possible and make a difference,” he says.
“The group of people that are in Greystone, it’s just really impressive – proper racers. Where will the team go in the future? GT3 maybe – there’s so many avenues.
“The reality is, if you’re paid to drive a racing car for your skill set, you’re in a small bracket of people in the world that actually are in that position.”
Not only that, he’s also back in…Formula E. Carroll’s paddock contacts in the have come calling once more, and he’s now the reserve driver for the NIO FE team, set to race at Diriyah this weekend.
He’s one of the few who can claim to have mixed it with and beaten the best. Does he look on the current F1 field and ‘I could’ve done that’?
“No, I don’t think like that, I try to…good and bad…we’ve all got a PhD in hindsight,” he hesitantly reflects. “Throughout your whole career, the best intentions are always there, we were trying our best, we just should never have chased just F1 so hard, we should have gone off and done something else.
“There were some very bad decisions made. You need the right people around you, you need the right management, you need people who understand the business.”
Still, despite all those up and downs, in a career that’s breadth could be matched by few, not much has changed for Carroll.
“I’ll just keep doing what I was always doing. I’ll give it absolutely everything, and we’ll see what happens in the future.”
Forever the underdog, but still fighting.