Tomáš Enge: Danica just said “sorry”
This weekend marks another edition of the legendary Indianapolis 500 race, on the most famous oval in the world. The only Czech driver to ever participate in the race was Tomáš Enge, currently a member of the Buggyra Racing. It was back in 2005 when he had to retire after a collision with just 45 laps to go. He was classified in the 19th place.
What associations do you have with the Indianapolis 500 race?
It’s an incredible experience. Usually, there are 300,000 fans. We were preparing for the race for the whole week. First, there are ‘rookie’ tests that you need to pass, because otherwise, as a rookie, they won’t even let you into practice sessions. It involves doing 10 laps with a speed of 100 mph, after which you have another 40 laps in which you are getting faster and faster until the organisers are happy with your pace. After that, you have another three weeks of official practice sessions and qualifyings. The race is incredibly prestigious. It means a lot to win the IndyCar series, but to win the Indianapolis 500, that means even more.
Is it really as long as three F1 races at once?
Indeed. The race has 200 laps. In the first 150 laps, you are pretty much just preparing your position for the final sprint where everything happens...
And that is when Danica Patrick ran into you…
You need to take it as a part of racing, and collisions are part of it. It was around the Lap 158, we had a restart, I was 10th, Danica was in front of me and my teammate Tomas Scheckter, whose dad Jody won the F1 world championship title with Ferrari in 1979, was behind me. But Danica lost the car at the restart and spun out. I tried to avoid her, but she hit me first and then Tomas as well. While the race was over for both of us, she only had to stop for a new front wing, and she was back. With just 10 laps to go, she was even in the lead, but then she started to run out of fuel, so she finished 4th. They were even celebrating her more, as the first woman to lead at Indy 500, than the actual race winner Dan Wheldon. He then actually arrived at the next race with a T-Shirt that said, ‘By the way, I’m an Indianapolis 500 winner!’
Was Danica Patrick really that good?
She had no troubles with speed or awareness in traffic. She weighted almost nothing, so she could fly. Also, Honda was really supporting her, she always had the best power unit.
What if anybody had told you, back then, that you will be taking care of the careers of Martin Koloc’s daughters one day?
Well, I probably wouldn’t believe them!
Has Danica apologised to you?
Not right after the race. But I had part of her front wing stuck in my car that we both signed and gave for the charity. And during the photoshoot, she told me ‘sorry’.
You have raced in F1, Le Mans and even at Indianapolis. What kind of characteristics do you need to have if you want to win the Triple Crown, so Monaco, Le Mans and Indianapolis? Only Graham Hill has achieved that.
They are 3 very different races. First of all, it’s all about the head and the machinery. And you also need luck. Fernando Alonso, who won in Monaco and Le Mans, is still in the hunt for the Triple Crown. He had an excellent team and probably even the best possible car, yet the engine gave up and he had to retire from the lead. Let’s wait and see about this year. Next year, he’ll be back in F1, but he can return to IndyCar even in 5 years’ time.
Who is likely to win the Triple Crown first? Fernando Alonso in Indianapolis 500 or Juan Pablo Montoya in Le Mans?
It’s all about luck and Juan Pablo still needs to be lucky to find the right crew around him.
In this century, there were also several F1 races in Indianapolis. And apart from Barrichello, only the world champions managed to win on that track, like Schumacher, Hakkinen or Hamilton. Does it say anything about the track?
No. The F1 races are not on an oval but on the inside circuit. Also, all these mentioned drivers have had success on all circuits.