Auto Racing / Sports

Briscoe hopes to honor idol Brabham in Indy 500

Ryan Briscoe will attempt to win the Indianapolis 500 Sunday, in part for the legendary Australian race driver Jack Brabham, who died last week.

Then, it will be on to the Motor City, where Briscoe, the always-smiling driver from Sydney, will compete in the twin-bill Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix next weekend.

From the smooth Brickyard and its 230-mile-an-hour laps to the bumpy, challenging 2.3-mile street course at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park, Briscoe, in typical fashion, will give it his best shot in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

"It would be perfect, really, to help celebrate Sir Jack's life by winning the Indy 500," said Briscoe on a visit to Belle Isle just a few days ago. "He's been an idol of mine since I was a boy. His deeds and leadership as a driver speak for themselves, but he was also a team owner, engine builder and a mechanic."

Brabham died on the Gold Coast in Australia on May 19. He was 88.

A three-time Formula 1 world champion, he drove a rear-engine car at Indianapolis in 1961, finishing ninth as a rookie in his No. 17 Cooper-Climax, and sparking the rear-engine revolution that would sweep the speedway in years to follow.

Briscoe will be one of three Australians in Sunday's "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" along with Team Penske's Will Power and KV Racing Technology's James Davison.

"Brabham's legacy will live on forever," said Briscoe, 32, who was on pole at Indianapolis for Penske in 2012. "I think it would be absolutely amazing if one of us three could go on and win the 500 in his honor."

And winning at Belle Isle, which has been a tough race in the past for Briscoe, would cap it off.

"Coming to Belle Isle is great for us," said Briscoe, 32, whose best finish on the island in the GP was ninth for Penske in 2008. "We love getting to Detroit to race. It's the Motor City; there is so much history there from Formula 1 to CART to IndyCar. Just being there, having the race in the shadow of the RenCen and General Motors is really cool."

He starts 30th in the 500 but hopes to move through the field quickly. "It's going to be all cars running fast and close to each other," Briscoe predicted. "I don't see it (the field) stringing out."

At Belle Isle, it will be quite different. Speeds may reach 170 m.p.h. on the back straight but braking, tire wear and setup, along with pit strategy, will be just as important.

"I haven't won in an IndyCar at Detroit, but we've had opportunities," said Briscoe, a former F1 test driver for Toyota Racing. "There's so much that has to come together to win in Indy Car--it's the speed, your consistency, your pit crew, your (race) strategy. It's hard."

Though the Indy 500 will test the best and likely break the weak, Briscoe is not concerned the Belle Isle Grand Prix comes around less than a week later.

"You just do it," said Briscoe, who has also won eight American Le Mans Series races in his career. "I think for the fans, it is perfect. I think having two races following the Indy 500 in the Motor City is great."

Today, Briscoe, who grew up racing go-karts in Australia, will try and win one for "Black Jack," as Brabham was fondly known in racing circles and to fans.

In Detroit, he'll duel for bragging rights twice in the Motor City.

"Couldn't get much better," said Briscoe.

(c)2014 Detroit Free Press

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