Later this month Adam Carroll will join a crowd of more than 250,000 to witness one of the greatest spectacles in motor racing — the Indianapolis 500.
He will watch from the sidelines as some of the bravest drivers in the world circle the legendary ‘Brickyard’ at speeds of up to 240mph.
And he will dream of being one of them next year.
Last week the 27-year-old A1GP champion from Portadown agreed a contract with one of America’s top teams, Andretti Autosport, to drive in a “limited number” of IndyCar races later this season. He is, in effect, going on trial with a view to joining the team full-time next year.
It is an opportunity he intends to grab with both hands.
“The idea is that I will drive in two, three, four — I don’t really know how many — races in the second half of the season and if it works out for both sides I will join them for a full season next year,” said Carroll.
“Getting this opportunity with a team such as Andretti Autosport is the sort of chance I’ve been after for a long time and I intend to make the most of it. I’m confident I can.”
He will go to Indianapolis not just to see the great race but to discuss Andretti’s plans for him.
“We haven’t worked out the details yet but we will sit down at Indianapolis and decide where and when it is going to happen,” he said.
Carroll expects the first race will be on one of the American road courses, possibly at Watkin’s Glen on July 4, or a fortnight later on the street circuit in Toronto.
“I imagine they will choose a road course or a street circuit for my first race rather than throw me straight onto an oval track,” he reasoned.
“I’ve never driven an Indy car or raced on one of these big ovals so I suspect they will ease me in on the kind of circuit I’m more used to. We’ll see .. .”
Carroll had been persistently linked to a move to Formula One after his success for Team Ireland in the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport. But it didn’t happen because of a problem that has dogged his career — lack of funding.
“Even the new teams who came into F1 this year were looking for a minimum of five million euros for a seat and although we had people talking to us, calling meetings, expressing interest, when it came to making commitments they didn’t come through,” he explained.
“Maybe, on reflection, it was a good thing. None of the new teams are looking like being competitive any time soon and running round at the back of the field in a slow car, no matter how good a driver you are, doesn’t do anything for your career.”
But in the background the American option was quietly gathering momentum. And it came about via a rare piece of good fortune for Carroll (pictured).
After a couple of seasons in GP2 where he had raced against — and beaten — the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock, Carroll was asked to join Ireland’s A1GP team. To some it seemed a step backwards.
But it proved to be an astute move. Not only did he demonstrate that he is a born race winner but it brought Carroll into contact with the Andretti family.
Former IndyCar champion — and ex-McLaren F1 driver — Michael Andretti had taken over the Team USA franchise and installed his son Marco in the Stars and Stripes car. The youngest Andretti had only limited success but Carroll caught the eye with five victories and six pole positions as he captured the A1GP title.
Michael Andretti duly took note. They had already discussed the possibility of the Ulsterman coming to America when Carroll attended an IndyCar race at Long Beach last year but after his A1 success the idea gathered strength.
“It has been in the melting pot for a while and I’ve had to be patient,” said Carroll.
“But we developed a good relationship and when it became clear F1 was a non-starter I contacted JF Thormann (the Andretti team’s CEO) and went out to meet them at the St Petersburg race in March.
“Now we have agreed to this partial programme for the second half of the season and we’ll see where it takes us. I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity. Andretti Autosport are a mega team, a massive name in America — in F1 terms it is like getting the chance to drive for McLaren.”
Announcing the signing, Michael Andretti said: “Adam is a special talent and someone we believe will have a bright future with us at Andretti Autosport. It was important for us to give him an opportunity this year and start building for the years to come.”
Carroll will join a squad of drivers that already includes Brazilian veteran Tony Kaanan, IndyCar’s ‘first lady’ Danica Patrick, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti.
THE IZOD IndyCar championship is America’s equivalent of Formula One.
It features traditional tracks, or road courses as they call them, high speed oval circuits, which are mainly based inside huge stadia, and street races.
The centrepoint of the season is the Indianapolis 500 which takes place at the end of May.
The programme includes races in Brazil, Canada and Japan.
The cars differ from F1 in that they are all built by a single manufacturer, the Italian company Dallara, and are powered by 750 horse power, 3.5 litre, V8 Honda engines which use ethanol fuel. They are capable of speeds of over 240mph.
There are currently 17 teams, all private companies, some of whom field as many as five drivers. The major teams are Penske, Ganassi and Andretti.
Four British drivers, Dario Franchitti, Dan Wheldon, Justin Wilson and Mike Conway, are competing this season.