Redon Rides On In IRL

Laurent Redon’s lifelong pursuit to race in the Indianapolis 500 takes a big step toward reality next weekend when the French driver begins his first full season in the Indy Racing League at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Redon, driving Conquest Racing’s No. 34 Dallara-Infiniti, will be making his third IRL start, but he’s already shown promise. He finished seventh in 11th in two starts last season at Chicagoland Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, and he continued to impress in the Test in the West a couple of weeks ago. Redon was in the Top 10 in two of the three days of testing. He’s confident he can remain one of the fastest drivers in the series.

“We're working to do a great season,” he said. “We have a pretty good package, and I believe Dallara is a good chassis. And the Infiniti engine, we believe it is a good engine, too.

“We could be better than Chicago (seventh), but we're learning.”

Learning perhaps, but he’s doing it quickly after spending many years road racing in Europe. He competed in Formula 3000, Formula 3 and was the test driver for the Benetton and Minardi Formula One teams. That experience didn’t help him when it came time to compete in an all-oval series, however.

“I think it is really different,” Redon said. “When I arrived, I thought I could use something that was from the road course, but the first time I really drove, nothing was the same. So I really have to learn everything, start from zero. On a road course you have to be pushing every time. The oval track is quite different. You have to anticipate much more. You really have to be progressive with the car and you can't fight with the car.

“Driving a Formula One car is really physical, and I promise you it is really physical to drive a Formula One car. You really have to be ready and fit for that, but it is different in the IRL. You don't need stronger arms or to be an athlete like you can run a mile or something like this. I believe for Formula One you have to, but IRL after the race what is difficult is to concentrate during all the race, because after all these lap with the speed, at least you need -- I don't know what it is exactly, but it is physical.

“After the race I couldn't walk. When I jumped out of the car, I couldn't walk. I had to stay at least 15 minutes, sit and wait and try to recover a little bit.”

He may have had trouble walking, but Redon knew after that first race in Joliet, Ill., that he wanted to drive in the IRL. Most of all, he wants to compete on the famed 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500.

“As a European driver I was mostly around Formula One,” he said. “I did two years as a test driver, and I really liked this job, but I really wanted to try the Indy 500 thing. Since I was a kid I was following the 500 and then I had this opportunity, and I really wanted to try. I raced last year and it was a really fun race, completely different than Europe, and because I like it I am coming back.”

Redon didn’t know he was coming back until late January. Conquest Racing co-owner Eric Bachelart weighed his options during the offseason, but he decided to stick with Redon. Mi-Jack also returns as a sponsor.

Although he returns with the same team and two races under his belt, Redon knows he has his work cut out for him this season as he continues to adjust to oval racing.

“To be honest there is so much that is different and I am more like a new driver,” he said. “I have to forget my 10 years of experience because I have to learn from zero. It is really different and right now I don't think I am the right driver for ovals, but I am learning and I am trying to be ready for the season.”

Just like everyone else.

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Auto Club 500

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Saturday, October 19, 2013
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