When Fernando Alonso was announced alongside Lando Norris in a Ligier for the 2018 Rolex 24, there seemed a convergence of interesting strands of narrative: not only were a couple of contemporary grand prix drivers entering the race, but so too were the powerhouse teams Joest and Penske. The brand new BMW M8 GTE was to make its debut and the Cadillac hegemony of 2017 had been broken down over the second half of the year as ESM ascended to a couple of late season wins. After an incredibly tight 2017 Rolex, 2018 promised more of the same – and then some.
In spite of apocalyptic weather battering the US, it’s a relief to find clear skies on Saturday morning. This is Legends Day at Indy and we have a relatively short time at the track to explore, orientate, absorb and revere.
The most striking aspect of the Speedway is – as one might expect – its size. The grandstands are less looming and lofty than we found the previous weekend at Charlotte but it’s their sheer reach which is so staggering. Stand around the yard of bricks and you need to squint ahead to see turn one and behind you to pick out turn four. It is simply enormous – on a scale you can’t quite believe until you’re stood there, gazing towards the horizon in all directions. The only comparison I can make is the pit straight at Monza; no other circuit of my experience stands up as a reference in terms of pure, flat(ish) real estate.
For the final time on our trip, we have once again injected a little jeopardy into proceedings. The week leading up to the Indy 500 features a host of short-track races across the surrounding area. The Carb Night Classic takes place on the Lucas Oils Raceway, about half an hour from downtown Indianapolis. I’m determined to be there for the evening’s activities. Mrs Motorcardiaries is less concerned. Either way, we hit the road due north from Bowling Green, bound for our last state: Indiana.