Mikhail Aleshin says that danger and confronting one’s fears are essential parts of motorsport’s appeal to racers, and these are the reasons why he likes the high-speed tracks on the IndyCar calendar.
Aleshin, who was yesterday confirmed at Schmidt Peterson Motorsport for a third season, has become renowned in IndyCar for not only his European-developed roadcourse skills but his swift adaptation to ovals.
Despite a huge shunt during practice for the 2014 season finale at Fontana, that left him with fractured ribs, a broken clavicle and severe internal chest injuries, Aleshin has remained a brave oval racer, scoring his first pole position at Pocono Raceway last August and finishing as race-winner Will Power’s closest challenger.
Asked about IndyCar’s unspecified plans for increased cockpit protection – likely to be an aeroscreen – which will be tested in 2018, Aleshin told Motorsport.com: “It’s really a difficult situation there with safety, because the speeds are really high. I think that’s great! That’s part of the reason I like IndyCar.
“These European tracks like Paul Ricard… You might as well play a computer game than drive there – you’ll enjoy it more. I understand that it’s all very dangerous and we can talk about it all we want but, excuse me, the people who are really worried about danger, I advise them to leave the sport and do something safe.
“Because this is racing. Racing’s always been tough, that’s normal. No need to make things more safe than they need to be. If a driver’s driving along, not afraid of anything, knowing that he’ll be unhurt in any case, that does take away a certain factor of the battling, of the human psychology.
“And that’s all very interesting: it’s you overcoming your emotions, your fears… and if you take it away, what kind of a sport would this be?”
Endorsing IndyCar’s 2018 direction
Aleshin said he was pleased with IndyCar reverting to a universal aerokit for 2018, but he was also positive about Honda’s prospects this season, the last year for the manufacturer-built aerokits.
“Yes, definitely [having the same aerokit] will make the battles even tougher because the cars will be more alike.
“But Honda caught up in a big way towards the end of last year, and was better than Chevrolet on big ovals. Honda’s biggest problem is tracks like small ovals.
“Of course, at the start there were issues, and that’s largely what people remember. But as we saw by the end, the situation changed quite a bit. It’s just that some tracks suit certain engines and certain aerokits better or worse. It’s absolutely normal.
“Most importantly, for the Indy 500 we’ll probably be all okay, and that’s cause to be happy.”
The Russian was also positive about Chip Ganassi Racing’s switch back from Chevrolet to Honda units.
“It really won’t affect anybody much… maybe it’ll help us even,” he said, “because maybe they’ll bring something over from the Chevrolet camp to Honda. They’ve worked with Chevrolet engines for so long – and I think the info they have had over the past few years from Chevrolet, our main rivals, could help Honda, which means help all of us.”