Alex Palou It will be the first Spanish pilot to take action in 2020. The American IndyCar begins its journey despite the coronavirus crisis in the United States. The Catalan will debut this next weekend with the Dale Coyne Racing team in the Texas oval. However, Palou has lived a true odyssey to enter the United States and will make a debut that would not have wanted even the very Fernando Alonso.Because Palou faces a major challenge: debut on one of the fastest and most dangerous circuits in the world, with virtually no previous oval experience. If Alonso enjoyed almost a month of intensive preparation, Palou has lived confined these last two months under the uncertainty of knowing whether or not he could enter the United States. In your case, it will be like driving again, but with one hand tied behind his back.
“Two months overwhelmed at home”
“My goodness, it was crazy, really” starts Palou in exclusive conversation with El Confidencial. “Since I returned from Costa Rica (to Spain) we have had to speak to everyone: the team, the championship… we couldn’t find a way to get in ”. The issue worsened after an official decree for elite athletes: motor sport had been left out. Even with his entry visa in order, Palou saw his debut in the IndyCar evaporate: “I have been overwhelmed for two months, stuck at home in Spain, thinking that I was missing the first race. We decided as a last option to travel to Mexico, spend fourteen days there and then enter the United States, It was a gray part within the standards. After ten days in Mexico I received authorization to enter. In the end, things went well. ”
Once in Austin, his new home in Texas, Palou learned about the reality of the coronavirus in the United States. “Life is a little different from what I had lived before leaving Spain. Although they are wrong, everything is more free. Apart from the fact that it is mandatory to wear masks, in the rest there are no differences compared to the normal rhythm of life. The other day I was coming from the airport and I stopped at a gas station that was like a big shopping center, with everything open, and people went everywhere without a mask. It was a ‘shock’ coming from Spain, here you know that they are fatal, but it does not seem that they are making many efforts to avoid problems ”.
Alex Palou, the first Spaniard to return to a motorsport competition after the pandemic. (Instagram)
A nightmare for the ‘rookies’
The Catalan always had the IndyCar as the main objective ahead of Formula 1. How do you feel after a long career with difficult moments and bets like emigrating to Japan? “I am very happy because it is part of a dream, now a goal from many years ago will be met. Although it could not be more complicated: we started in an oval instead of debuting in the traditional and urban circuits as it would be normal for a ‘rookie’. Not only that, we had to have trained a lot on these types of circuits and ride more days. I reach the first race in an oval with only two days in the car and a single day in an oval. Above we have compressed races and training in one day, with the GP at night “, Explain.
“In general, Texas is a very difficult track, since you have been running for twenty years or the first. It is really difficult to do well “, declared these days the champion in force, Josef Newgarden. “Normally we have five races to go well and get a good base. For the veterans it will be a tough race, but for the ‘rookies’ it will be extremely difficult. It will be all year for beginners because there is very little time on the track. ” Alex Palou is one of them. What do you think about it? The advice that Many people repeat to me is that I have a lot of respect because they say that all the milk in the ovals do a lot of damage ”, stresses.
We remind you of the differences with the preparation of Alonso in his first 500 Miles. “Fernando was a day of ‘rookies’ before deciding if he was definitely going or not. Then a whole week of training with all the cars. I think about eighty or a hundred sets of rubbers were put on it, because you don’t stop. You get experience with the car, with the oval, behind a car, without cars, worn tires … In the test I did in Texas I only came out with new tires once. The car always turns left and it is very difficult to stop with the boxes being so small, you have to know how to park the car and we have not made a stop due to lack of time, ”he says. What could be defined as debuting bareback: “We may lack a lot in qualification and career.” Despite everything, Palou is not too overwhelmed either: “We will start with more aerodynamics, so we will be slower and start from behind. I also don’t know what it feels like to roll behind a car and in racing it’s all very different. In an oval you have to be calmer, that goes well, with respect … if you lose control you are in danger. “
Palou, in the preseason tests before the debut in the IndyCar. (Instagram
The lowest possible risk
The American IndyCar is the first major international championship to start in the pandemic. Right after the conversation with El Confidencial, Alex Palou joined a conference call with all the organizers, teams and pilots to find out the procedures to follow next weekend. “We have many. The first thing they tell us is that everything must take place on the same day. The team can only go the night before to mount everything and the night of the race everyone has to go to limit the time we spend in contact with people from other states. Only essential personnel, equipment and pilot may be present, nothing more. Neither family nor physical trainer. Large teams that have twice the staff will not be able to put half of them on the circuit. They will look at the temperature twice a day … They are trying to have as little risk as possible. ”
In addition to debuting on the IndyCar, Alex Palou will also coincide with Fernando Alonso and Oriol Serviá in the next 500 Miles, in August. How do you see the panorama by then? Can the race be held? “Honestly, I see it quite crude because it is in August, which is already here. The first, I’m sure they won’t do Indianapolis behind closed doors, because the greatest thing is the people and the one that mounts. They will not go from having 300,000 people to nothing. And for there to be people, I don’t think it can be done in two months. At the moment, they tell us that it will be held but, personally, I think it will be difficult to run the 500 Miles this year ”, he concludes.