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Formula One Cars Return to Race at IMS During Vintage Race Weekend

Race fans longing for the bygone era of Formula One racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway can rekindle those memories and many more during the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational this weekend at IMS. 

Presented by the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA), the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational is one of the nation’s largest racing festivals showcasing cars of all types. Vintage Indy cars, Formula One cars, stock cars and more will run on the famed 2.5-mile oval and the 2.439-mile IMS road course today through Sunday, June 14.

One of the premier cars at this year’s event is the No. 8 Benetton B197 that was driven throughout the 1997 Formula One season to a seventh-place finish by Gerhard Berger of Austria during the last of his 14 campaigns as an F1 driver. 

During last year’s inaugural Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational at IMS, Brian French of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, a former AMA Superbike rider, drove the Benetton to victory in the Group 9 race that features a wide variety of cars including Formula One, Indy Lights, Formula 5000, Formula 2, Formula Atlantic & Formula B (1600cc); Formula Super Vee (1600cc, air and water cooled); Formula Continental and Formula 3 (1100cc).

French, who switched to driving sports cars 20 years ago, has owned his prized Benetton for eight years and he enjoys driving it against all comers, including and especially against his son James, who drives the No. 11 Jordan 197 car that also competed during the 1997 Formula One season.

“Last year, Jordan was broke with gearbox problems all year, so I didn’t have to run against him at all, so I went the whole season undefeated,” Brian said. 

Jordan, who also competes in the TUDOR United Sportscar Championship series, is a skilled driver with a wealth of knowledge that was instrumental in propelling his father across the finish line first last year at IMS.  

“Winning here last year was fantastic, but it was tough,” Brian said. “I was trying to learn a new track because I’d never been here before and didn’t do any simulator time. I struggled, but my son was coaching me all week and finally we got up to speed and got the pole and won on race day.”

While James was his father’s chief ally here last year, he’s already demonstrated that this time around he’s out to take his father’s place on the top step of the podium. “He’ll be on the pole on race day,” Brian said. “He beat me by four seconds a lap in qualifying, he murdered me. He’s a well-seasoned driver and he’s got me covered, unless he breaks or crashes.” 

No matter who takes the checkered flag in this epic father-son battle on Saturday, it’s obvious how much all drivers competing at IMS this weekend appreciate the rare opportunity to drive at the Racing Capital of the World. 

“It’s a great track and the surface is nice with good grip,” Brian said. “We’re going to put on a good show.”

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