SPARTA, Ky., Monday, Aug. 13, 2001 - Formula One veteran Johnny Herbert turned speeds faster than 214 mph during his first Indy Racing test today at Kentucky Speedway at Heritage Motorsports. Herbert tested for more than three hours on the 1.5-mile oval with first-year team Heritage, which fields the No. 35 Heritage Motorsports Firestone Menards G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series for veteran Jeff Ward.
It was a strong showing from Herbert, driving on an oval for only the second time during his distinguished career. It took just three laps for Herbert to exceed 200 mph in a G Force chassis powered by an Infiniti 35A engine. His top speed of more than 214 mph would have put him on the front row for the Belterra Casino Indy 300 Indy Racing event on Aug. 12 at Kentucky Speedway.
"I'm very happy with the test today," Herbert said. "I bit into this weekend's pole speed. With this ride, I could have qualified on the front row of yesterday's race," Herbert said. "This is a very drivable engine. It's very powerful in the right places on the track. It provides a very interesting drive, which I enjoyed. I was able to keep the momentum up all the way around the oval."
English native Herbert, 37, has three career victories during his Formula One career from 1989-2000. He also was on the winning Mazda team at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1991. Now his final goal is to win the Indianapolis 500. His only other oval experience was a short test in a Champ Car last month on the new Rockingham oval in England.
"I've only accumulated about a day's worth of experience on the oval tracks, but I've thoroughly enjoyed the opportunities," Herbert said. "Winning the Indy 500 is my last major challenge, and I'm doing all I can to get there. This was a great package to run with, and I really hope I'm competing here next year.
"My goal is to get as much experience with a team before going to the Indy 500. Right now, I'm trying to figure out all the possibilities and looking at the strongest packages. I'm looking for the best opportunity to win the Indianapolis 500." Heritage is the leading contender now to provide that opportunity, Herbert said.
"This was a great test for the team, " said John Mecom III, co-owner of Heritage Motorsports. "The conditions today were very comparable to Sunday's race, so we're able to make a close comparison of the data we've accumulated. That was the goal of the test. We learned a lot about the G-Force chassis and were able to experiment with the Infiniti engine. We're making ourselves better for the future."