Barrichello boosts KV Racing and IndyCar

Rubens Barrichello talks modestly about the expectations he has

for his first season in the IndyCar Series, and when he says there

will be an adjustment period and potential struggles, he sounds

rather believable.

<inline ordinal=”1′></inline><p> Then he gets

in the car.</p> <p> Barrichello marked his first test

as an official IndyCar driver with the third fastest lap in

Thursday’s afternoon session at Sebring International Raceway.

Although his lap of 52.2228 trailed series champions Scott Dixon

and Dario Franchitti in the session, it was the sixth fastest over

three full days of testing this week.</p> <p> And it

reiterated what everyone already knows: the Brazilian is still

very, very fast.</p> <p> He showed that last month when

best friend Tony Kanaan lured him to Sebring to spend a few days on

track with his KV Racing team. Barrichello had spent the last 19

years in Formula One, had never before been in an IndyCar, and

wound up faster than Kanaan in Kanaan’s car.</p> <p>

”The guy sat in my car the first day and he beat me already, so

now he makes me wake up in the morning thinking about him,” Kanaan

said. ”Trust me, I was mad. I was mad in a good way, but I was mad

that he was faster than me.”</p> <p> The invitation to

test was a trap of sorts set by Kanaan, who figured Barrichello

would enjoy the experience enough to make the leap to IndyCar. He

was correct, and the wheels were put in motion immediately after to

line up the funding for KV Racing to sign Barrichello.</p>

<p> The deal was put together in just over a month, announced

last week, and Barrichello is now an official IndyCar Series

driver.</p> <p> The ripple effect has been huge for

everyone involved:</p> <p> – KV Racing, which signed

Kanaan the week before last year’s season-opener, continued its

push to become one of the top teams in IndyCar and the Barrichello

signing gave the organization an impressive three-car

lineup.</p> <p> – Kanaan, winless last year, gained a

teammate who will push him to up his game while E.J. Viso earned a

highly-regarded mentor.</p> <p> – The IndyCar Series

attracted an extremely popular driver (Barrichello’s nearly 1.5

million followers on Twitter are more than all of NASCAR’s

championship contenders last year combined), and ticket sales

rocketed for the April 29 race in Sao Paulo the moment Barrichello

announced he was joining the series.</p> <p> ”Let’s

face it, Rubens chose to come to the series, and he didn’t have to

do anything,” Franchitti said. ”He could go sit on his farm in

Brazil and drink wine, or go to Disney every day. Whatever he

wanted to do. But he has such a passion for racing, and the fact he

chose to come to IndyCar says a lot about where this series is

going.”</p> <inline ordinal=” 2″=””>

Barrichello gives immediate credibility to the drivers and their

push to have a stronger voice in the series. He spent the last two

seasons in Formula One as head of the Grand Prix Drivers’

Association, and is willing to get involved with IndyCar’s driver


He’s not ready just yet, though, to comment on the ongoing

public dispute between IndyCar’s drivers and Texas Motor Speedway

over the construction of the fences at the high-banked oval.

Drivers are pushing IndyCar hard to eliminate the pack racing that

contributed to Dan Wheldon’s fatal accident, but many also believe

Texas’ fence is too dangerous because, like the one at Las Vegas,

the posts are on the inside of the track.

Barrichello said Thursday he doesn’t know enough about the issue

to comment yet, and wants to see the fences, the track and

experience the banking before he forms an opinion. But he does

understand how to solve disputes.

”Communicate. Not pointing fingers,” he said. ”Drivers are

very unique in that sometimes they don’t communicate very well. But

on the other hand, people try to think `I know what they are going

through’ and they don’t. So the communication and the expression is

the best thing. The best thing.

”When you are trying to say to people `You don’t know what it

means to drive the car’ and then they come from the outside and say

`You don’t how to handle the whole situation’ it is true. We both

don’t know the other situation. That’s why we need to


That’s a strong voice of reason at a time IndyCar needs a strong


His availability was sudden, and came in January, when Williams

gave his F1 seat to fellow Brazilian Bruno Senna. Even though he

turns 40 the week he’ll make his debut in the Indianapolis 500,

retirement didn’t interest him. He brought his two young sons to

that first test at Sebring, and has repeatedly cited their

enthusiasm as one of the reasons a move to IndyCar was


That enthusiasm is shared at KV Racing, which is winless since

joining IndyCar in 2008 and hasn’t won since the final event in

Champ Car history in that same year. Kanaan’s addition upped the

team’s performance last year – he was third in his debut race last

year, had three podium finishes and finished fifth in the

championship standings – and Barrichello now brings his vast

experience to the program.

”It really puts more pressure on the team,” team co-owner

Jimmy Vasser said. ”Not that there isn’t already enough built-in

pressure in motorsport, but to have a driver of Rubens’ caliber, a

solid team with E.J. and Tony, and some new engineers that we have

on board … it’s the kind of added pressure you want to have in

motorsport, and if you don’t feel that naturally, then you’re

probably not a real racer.”

Barrichello said there’s still work to be done.

”I don’t think it’s an automatic that KV Racing Technology will

automatically raise its game, but I think the joint entry with

Chevrolet is a good marriage and I think that we can conquer from

that,” he said. ”I am pretty sure that before the season starts

you cannot simply say the team has all of a sudden improved. But

they are doing all they can to make it more professional in terms

of drivers, engineers, mechanics, pit stops – everything that

counts. We really do hope we are going to have a proper car that

gives us a chance to win.”