Two-time Indianapolis 500 race winner Arie Luyendyk will contest his first serious race in almost 10 years when he drives for United Autosports in the 24 Hours of Spa on July 30-31.
Somewhat surprisingly, considering that Arie was born 150 miles from the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, the Dutchman will be racing at the Belgian venue for the first time. The 1990 and '97 Indy champion, who raced for 10 years in Europe before moving permanently to the U.S., tested at Spa for the team last month while Johnny Herbert also joined the action having flown in from the Australian Grand Prix.
“I'm excited about driving in the same team with the likes of Eddie [Cheever], Johnny [Herbert], Mark [Blundell] and Stefan [Johansson] – they're a great bunch of guys and we all go back a long way – it'll be so much fun," said Luyendyk. "The Audi is a very sexy looking car and the guys had told me it was a blast to drive, which I found out for myself last month.
“I like 24-hour races and have always enjoyed doing them. It's about getting into a rhythm, a flow, so I'm looking forward to that again and the fact that I get to drive at Spa which was a very important factor in my decision. I have never raced at Spa – in fact I'd never been to the track before last month's test – and I always thought that something was missing in my racing career."
Luyendyk said the majestic 4.35-mile Spa circuit made a great impression on him.
“From what I'd seen many times on television and, of course, what I'd been told, actually getting out on the circuit just confirmed that the place is simply awesome," he added. "One session of eight laps would have been worth it to me in flying from the USA! The track has everything – it's just tremendous, probably one of the greatest if not the greatest track I have driven. The team is very professional and a top-notch operation. I love the Audi R8 LMS but still have to get used to the electronic gizmos such as ABS braking and traction control.
“My father, Jaap, raced an Alfa Romeo 1300 at Spa in 1965 but I didn't go with him, I was too young and in school. He suffered a huge accident, crashing off the road and hit a tree head on – which ended up next to him in the car! He was lucky to survive but broke both knees.”
Luyendyk's last major race was the Indy 500 in 2002 and he last raced in Europe in the 1989 Le Mans 24 Hours. Arie has “competed” at the Goodwood Festival of Speed (GB) in 2005 and ‘08 and contested the Mille Miglia last year. He competed in 17 "500's", leading eight of them, and set the single- and four-lap average (236.986mph) qualifying records in 1996.