One of the more mundane parts of getting ready for the Indianapolis 500 – making a seat fit – was more insightful than normal yesterday at the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing shop.
For upon Oriol Servia’s homecoming back to the team with which he’s driven three of his eight career Indy 500s (2009, 2014, 2015) and now prepares for his fourth at RLL and ninth overall this year, it was not just a chance to ask the Catalan about his own prospects this month but also recap the international amount of fever and attention that has come with his Spanish countryman, Fernando Alonso, racing this year’s event.
Servia was with Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, the head of INDYCAR’s parent company, on the European tour of promotion for the race in Madrid and Barcelona, and returned to the U.S. for his own preparations this week. He called the coverage “mind-blowing” with more than 280 pages of newspaper articles covering the race.
“The first day in Milan [Italy] was good but then we went to Barcelona and Madrid and it was insane. It got bigger and bigger and I didn’t expect so many people but it’s such a big deal that Fernando is coming to Indy,” Servia said, via NBCSN contributor Robin Miller for RACER.com.
“It was perfect timing because it coincided with his rookie test and I counted 287 pages of newspaper clippings about it.”
Per INDYCAR, Alonso’s one-day test, which made massive waves, also contributed to significant digital metrics.
The YouTube live stream, which generated more than 2 million times viewed, saw the U.K. first in region of consumption with #AlonsoRunsIndy trending in eight countries and #Indy500 also trending in eight. Interestingly, the #Indy500 trend was not in the continental U.S. but all international, in Spain, Canada, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, Netherlands, Puerto Rico and Vietnam.
Servia will be set to make his 200th career start in IndyCar at Indianapolis, in a career that has dated to 2000 with more than one dozen teams. Tom German, who was the race-winning engineer with Alexander Rossi last year with Andretti-Herta Autosport and with Sam Hornish Jr. and Gil de Ferran prior to that at Team Penske, will be his engineer. He will also run the Detroit doubleheader the following week.
Fellow veteran Tony Kanaan, whose career in IndyCar dates to 1998 as he’s in his 20th season, also offered some friendly advice to Alonso with RTV’s Dave Furst in Indianapolis, about the items they don’t quite tell you about in the 24 hours leading up to the race start. That’s linked here.