By his own account, Romain Grosjean will be “a proper rookie” when he takes to Gateway’s 1.25-mile track in Illinois next weekend, when the Frenchman makes his oval IndyCar race debut.
Grosjean, who has impressed this season in America’s premier single-seater series at the wheel of Dale Coyne Racing’s #51 entry, has so far limited his appearances to IndyCar’s road courses.
Last weekend, for the second time this year, the former Haas F1 driver finished second on Indy’s road course.
But the urge to sample the thrills of oval racing kicked at the outset for Grosjean, and Gateway Motorsport Park’s medium speed, low banking track is no doubt the ‘safest’ environment for the Dale Coyne Racing charger to test his skills and, perhaps more importantly, his comfort level.
“Next week I’m a rookie, a proper rookie,” Grosjean said last weekend at Indy, quoted by RaceFans.
“I’ve been named a rookie all year long. I don’t feel like one. Next week I am one. I just want to gradually go for it, improve myself, [and] learn about it.”
Needless to say, Grosjean, supported by his team, has done his homework and conducted as much preparation as possible to ease himself into the oval experience, enjoying a warm-up outing last month at Gateway.
“There was so much to learn. It’s so different from every type of racing I’ve done before,” he added.
“It’s a weird one. The car drives itself. People are telling you that’ll be fine, and you’re like, ‘what are they talking about, I drive my car!’.
“On the ovals I think the car does the work, and you control the speed, and it’s quite a bit of a strange feeling.
“I think it’s just going to be a great experience. I want to see how it’s going, everyone seems to be enjoying ovals there.
“I still prefer road courses, but I like braking late. I’m looking forward to it and seeing what we can get out of it.”
Read also: DCR hopeful of retaining Grosjean amid Andretti rumours
In any case, Grosjean is keeping it real and won’t head into his first oval race with a sense of complacency.
“Everyone who thinks it’s easy to run ovals is absolutely mistaken,” he insisted. “It is tough and requires a different feeling, but I must say I’m enjoying it. I’m looking forward to discovering more.”
“The racing is going to be the very exciting part. Every time you go into a corner, it’s a high-speed corner, and it’s fun, but it keeps the adrenaline going.”
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