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Indianapolis 500 Preview: Jean Alesi

Photo credit: Ned Leone

#64 Lotus Cars Dallara-Lotus, Fan Force United

Born: June 11, 1964

Home: Avignon, Vaucluse, France

2011 RESULTS: Alesi did not attempt to race at Indianapolis last season, having spent much of the year serving as a brand ambassador for Lotus by demonstrating their Formula 1-inspired T125 track car.

CAREER BEST: Alesi has never started an Indy 500. He has, however, raced in two United States Grands Prix at Indianapolis, with a best finish of seventh in 2001 for Jordan.

OUTLOOK: Alesi, one of Formula 1’s most respected drivers in parts of multiple decades, has transitioned gracefully into a role with Lotus as a sort of motorsports elder statesman, representing the brand in its major expansion into multiple disciplines of racing and helping get amateurs suited to the T125, a track day car built like a slightly less powerful Formula 1 challenger. Lotus has wanted to run Alesi at Indy since they got their IndyCar engine program off the ground, preferably with one of their existing teams.

Originally Alesi had planned to ally with the esteemed Newman/Haas Racing program, on hiatus from IndyCar in 2012, but the program wasn’t up to that organization’s high standards. Instead, Alesi will run for Fan Force United, an Indy Lights program led by early IRL driver Tyce Carlson that finally has a chance to make its IndyCar debut. Alesi will work with Greg Beck, who prepared cars for the 500 on a shoestring budget for years before joining FFU. They’ll face a serious challenge to perform, though; with the weaker Lotus engine and FFU’s inexperience at the top level, they may be a back row team, and their only guarantee to make it into the race likely comes from the 33-car entry list.

– Chris Leone

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