Indy Racing League

Marc Gene Looks to IRL





Story by James Beckett.

MARC GENE, the 1996 Italian SuperFormula Champion, is close to finalising a test and race programme with a leading Indy Racing League team.

Gene, 22, who lives in Buckingham England, and Barcelona, Spain, has been searching for a ride in the IRL since the end of November and his quest has just been boosted by the signing of a sponsorship deal with to major Spanish companies.

"These deals have happened just at the right time, " Gene said this week. "It has been a hard struggle to gain any backing from companies, although my last year's sponsor, Quaker State, have always planned to aid my budget."

Two tests for Nordic Racing in a Formula 3000 car have kept Gene on his toes during the closed season, although he must prepare himself for something of a culture shock as he heads to America and the famed oval speedways.

"Driving on an oval will be so very different from anything I have ever done before. I am really looking forward to the challenge and I am confident that I can be a success," Gene added.

Originally it was hoped that Gene would make his IRL debut at the Phoenix International Raceway, round four of the 1996/97 season, on March 23rd, although it now looks likely that his debut will take place at a test session in April at either Las Vegas or Indianapolis.

Prior to racing in the IRL Gene will have to take and pass a 'rookie test' governed by the American organisational body, USAC.

The four part test must be completed in controlled conditions under the watchful eye of USAC officials. When they are convinced of a driver's capability of driving on an oval track, the driver in question is granted a licence to race IRL.

A representative of USAC said this week, "Marc Gene will sail through the rookie test. A driver of his standard will be a major gain to the Indy Racing League as it continues to establish itself in the motoring world."

If Gene's maiden IRL drive is a success then the possibility still stands that he may make a racing debut in the Indy 500 on May 25th, the 81st running of 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing'.

Aside from racing in IRL, Gene will also contest selected rounds of the FIA International F3000 Championship. Two teams, Nordic Racing and Coloni, are keen to sign him for the 1997 season and a deal looks set to be completed within the next fortnight.

The F3000 season kicks off at Silverstone on May11th, although a major pre-season test takes place at the Northants venue on April 23rd and 24th.

Throughout the entire season Gene will be wearing crash helmets manufactured by Japanese company Shoei.

Shoei America, based in Yorba Linda, California, recently signed a deal with Gene to cover him for 1997 and beyond. A Shoei spokesman said, "Marc is a great driver and we look forward to supporting him in 1997. Racing in both IRL and F3000 we are confident he will win races and that is good not just for him but us also."

James Beckett.

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