Paddock postcard from Indianapolis 20 Jun 2004
A guide to who's in town for this weekend's big race
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the self-styled auto racing capital of the world, so it was fitting that there was an air of carnival about the US Grand Prix. Outside the Speedway, the atmosphere on Georgetown Street and 16 Street is like nowhere else.
Many famous racing faces turned out for the hungry autograph collectors, among them Americas world champions, Phil Hill and Mario Andretti. Then there were David Hobbs, Danny Sullivan, Stefan Johansson, Helio Castroneves and Eddie Cheever, while from the world of NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon flew in especially from the Nextel Cup race in Michigan with his fellow racers Jimmie Johnson, Brian Vickers and the new fan favourite, Dale Earnhardt Jnr. They arrived on Saturday before jetting back later in the afternoon for the Happy Hour final practice session.
Russ Wicks, the Seattle racer who holds the world water speed record through the mile for propeller boats, at 205.494 mph (330.711 kph) set in the Miss Freei unlimited hydroplane, was visiting BAR, where he shares a mutual sponsor, UGS. Wicks is currently far advanced with his new American Challenge contender which will attack Ken Warbys outright world water record of 317.596 mph (511.121 kph) in 2005.
Sir Jackie Stewart, who led 40 laps of the 1966 Indianapolis 500 before his Mecom Lola succumbed to engine failure, is due to lead 300 bagpipers before the Grand Prix starts, as part of Pipefest 04, an annual gathering of global pipers, which just happens to be running at the same time in Indianapolis now that the race has moved to a June date.
Besides the Michelin Porsche Supercup, the main support race here is another brace of rounds of the new Formula BMW USA Championship, featuring series favourite Andrea Wirth, British leading light Dominik Jackson, and Bobby Rahals son Graham. The first race, after Formula One qualifying on Saturday, fell to Jonathan Summerton after a fabulous fight with Wirth and Jackson. Matt Jaskol and Federico Montoya also featured strongly before dropping back, as did James Hinchcliffe, who spun in Turn Three.