Francesco Dracone laughs that as his 27th birthday approaches, “It is a proper age to understand what I want to do as a big boy.” Conquest Racing owner Eric Bachelart is lending a hand.
Dracone, of Turin, Italy, will make his IZOD IndyCar Series debut in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by Westfield Insurance this weekend ,driving the No. 34 Halkin Jet/La pasta/Conquest Racing car. Bertrand Baguette, who has 11 more IZOD IndyCar Series races under his helmet, is Dracone's teammate.
“Francesco has a great sense of humor and he has been jelling with his engineer and the entire crew very naturally,” Bachelart said. “It's a pleasure to have him on the team. I'm looking forward to this weekend and working closely together for his first race in the series.”
Dracone's most recent experience was in Euroseries 3000 in 2009 (renamed Auto GP this year), where he placed seventh in the standings. That series for '09 switched from Formula 3000 cars to first generation A1GP cars. Names of note competing in Auto GP this season include Romain Grosjean (second in the standings), Duncan Tappy, Jonny Reid and Giorgio Pantano.
Dracone was impressive, if understandably tentative at the outset, during his road/street course test July 29 on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with IZOD IndyCar Series driver coach Al Unser Jr. and series technical director Kevin Blanch monitoring the program.
“The car is big and powerful,” he said at the lunch break. “It's completely different from what we have in Europe. You have high speed but have to deal with the weight in the corners. This racetrack also is kind of different from what we have in Europe. The pit lane is very tight and the car is big.”
Through the afternoon session, he checked off items ranging from pit stall entry to tire management – much like Adam Carroll did a month earlier on the circuit before his IZOD IndyCar Series debut at Watkins Glen International for Andretti Autosport. Both drivers will have the benefit of being somewhat familiar with the Mid-Ohio course before encountering traffic in the initial practice session
Dracone, who cut his teeth in Italian F3, said he's always been a fan of Indy car racing.
“Since I was 3 or 4, I was watching the Indy 500 (on TV),” he said. “I thought it was something stunning – a real competitor to F1. Unfortunately, the fans and media in Europe are not really loving IndyCar because they are all keen on following Formula 1. For the real motorsports lover, being in Indy is a dream come true.
“Conquest is a great team, driven by a European owner. I was really looking for something different. There was no space for Formula 1 or something in Europe and all I could do was GT cars. I consider myself a bit young for GTs. Being in touch with Eric was love at first sight. He's a big father giving me advice, and that's why I'm here. My expectations are to avoid mistakes in practice first of all and get as many miles as possible in order to get familiar with the car.”
Those also are Bachelart's goals for the driver.
“We are obviously very pleased to have Francesco join our team and to be able to give him his first experience in the IZOD IndyCar Series,” Bachelart added. “He did a very good job during his first test at Mid-Ohio, avoiding mistakes and progressing well throughout the day. However, we have to keep in mind that he will have a lot to learn in a very short period of time. It will be challenging for him because he is joining the series when all the drivers have been competing for most of the season already.”