October 4, 2023

“This is the hardest thing you can do”

The decision to use Tom Blomqvist this weekend in Toronto, based on a single day of IndyCar experience gained eight months ago in Florida, speaks volumes about the faith Mike Shank and Jim Meyer have in their 29-year-old IMSA star.

They could have signed an IndyCar veteran to replace Simon Pagenaud after IndyCar medical staff denied the injured Frenchman permission to race the streets of Toronto, but the son of Swedish rally legend Stig Blomqvist has been entrusted to Meyer Shank Racing represent this year. weekend in the NTT IndyCar Series after leading the team to victory in IMSA.

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“First of all I obviously send my best wishes to Simon,” Blomqvist said of his friend and occasional IMSA teammate. “I wish him a speedy recovery. Nobody likes to see that. But I’m pretty excited. I am also well aware of the challenges I face. This is the hardest thing you can do. I have only driven the car once. It was a while ago. I don’t know the job, and it’s not exactly an easy job, is it? It has walls around it. It’s bumpy. And to be honest, as a driver, if you don’t know the track and don’t really know the car, that’s the worst combination ever.

“If you know one of the two, it’s a bit easier, but if you don’t know either, it becomes so difficult. The team is of course aware of this. They’re going to do everything they can to get me up to speed. I’m going to be like a kid in school, learning everything I can to make sure I’m as prepared as possible. But in the end, nothing will properly prepare me for the real thing. I’ll definitely jump in. But I’m up for the challenge. It is an experience that can only help me as a driver.”

Blomqvist was a veteran of European junior open-wheel racing before his services were secured by BMW and other factories in the sports car competition. He is one of the fastest and most versatile talents working today. From GT racing to Formula E, the British-born Blomqvist excelled in every discipline, and when MSR needed to upgrade its IMSA roster towards 2022, he was the key signing, leading the team to two major wins at the Rolex 24 At Daytona and Petit Le Mans and a total of seven podiums from 10 rounds with former teammate Oliver Jarvis.

Along with help from Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves in the longest enduros, Blomqvist led the way to clinching the IMSA DPi Championship for Acura and MSR.

Joining Colin Braun in 2023 and MSR’s IndyCar duo for the long events, Blomqvist has continued his rocket-like ways with the new Acura ARX-06 hybrid GTP, taking pole and crossing the finish line first at the Rolex 24, and pole position last weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park on the outskirts of Toronto, where he and Braun took to victory lane once again.

Aside from the power steering and other conveniences offered by his GTP car, Blomqvist is ready for the heat and exhaustion that the No. 60 Honda IndyCar awaits him once practice begins on Friday.

“I’m dying,” he said. ‘I’m going to be destroyed. But I am mentally and physically prepared. I am also well aware of my abilities. I have driven everything, which helps in these kinds of circumstances.”

If he is anything other than last in the field during that session, and close to last in the event, it will be a surprise because of all the challenges he faces. But that doesn’t mean Blomqvist will be happy to accept being on the wrong side of the timelines, and it’s that kind of fighting spirit that suits MSR’s owners perfectly.

“If I’m at the bottom of the timesheets I think it’s to be expected, but I’ll still be angry if I’m last at the end of FP1,” he said. “I don’t know what to expect. I’ve never been so unsure in my life about how this is going to turn out; I have a feeling it’s going better than expected or it’s going to be really, really tough.

“One thing is for sure: I’m going to have a lot of fun, because these cars are real race cars. You have to chase them, you can push hard in qualifying, and that’s the kind of racing I enjoy. I just don’t have that much time to understand all the intricacies of the car. There isn’t a lot of practice in IndyCar, but during practice on Friday I’m going to pump every lap I can get.”

Without the luxury of spending a day on a driver-in-the-loop simulator before FP1, Blomqvist will keep his phone and tablet busy while watching in-car videos on YouTube. And once he gets a chance to experience the tricky 2.9km, 11-corner street circuit on Friday, his aggression is likely to ramp up on Saturday and Sunday.

“Hopefully I’ll get a good night’s sleep on Friday and my brain will wake up the next day and say, ‘Oh, I’m a lot more comfortable now. And let’s see what I can do,'” he said. what happens when you drive a car. You know, it’s good to have that nice break between practice one and practice two. But I still don’t expect miracles from me, and I don’t think anyone should. But I just want to get away from the weekend and be happy with my performance and what I did with so few miles.”

Story originally appeared on Racer

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