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Monday, December 4, 2023

How Romain Grosjean discovered his IndyCar salvation with Juncos

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After IndyCar’s Indianapolis Street Course race in Could, Romain Grosjean was fourth in factors with solely Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward and Marcus Ericsson forward of him. He’d scored two poles and two runner-up finishes, though he’d been taken out of the lead battle within the St Petersburg season opener by Scott McLaughlin, and crashed out late on in Texas after clipping David Malukas when set for his best-ever oval end result.

“We must always’ve been main [the championship] earlier than the Indy 500,” he tells Autosport. “Then we obtained a bit unfortunate. Errors had been made, on my own and a few others.”

5 months later, he went from title contender to ride-less, as his break up from Andretti Autosport was finally confirmed via a lawsuit. In addition to shedding such a coveted seat, the ex-Formulation 1 racer discovered many different avenues closed off. His salvation has come within the type of Juncos Hollinger Racing, which has snapped him up for 2024.

Led by Ricardo Juncos, a former Formulation Renault driver who emigrated to America from Argentina in 2002 and ended up constructing a formidable staff that rose all the best way to IndyCar, it will get a high-profile racer with a formidable racing resume and a degree to show.

“I believe there’s much more to return from me, I believe it’s a case of reset and bounce again,” says Grosjean. “Let’s see the place we go together with Juncos, let’s see what we will do. You by no means know what the longer term is like. I believe, for Juncos, it’s an amazing alternative to have me, I believe for me it’s nice to have Juncos. And let’s do one thing collectively.

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“What I’ve seen from Ricardo is that he’s all the time giving his finest to make issues occur. And he is aware of that I’ll do the identical.”

Photograph by: Lamborghini Squadra Corse

Grosjean shall be a part of Lamborghini’s LMDh squad subsequent 12 months, however confronted dropping off the IndyCar grid till his transfer to Juncos was firmed up

Grosjean admits he’s massively relieved to have discovered a seat, after his exit left him little scrambling time to look elsewhere, with the Juncos talks solely beginning across the Laguna Seca season finale: “Yeah, there was some concern. Particularly in a scenario the place I didn’t discuss to some other staff till very late within the season. A lot of the groups by then had been absolutely booked.

“It was positively a problem to search out a great place for me to land. You have got that danger that point has run out however I’m glad it labored out for me. So it was good that all of it got here collectively and I’m glad as a result of I nonetheless wish to go racing, I nonetheless like it.”

This new alternative will permit Grosjean to have a while to reset earlier than he has to go once more, though pre-season testing with the Iron Lynx Lamborghini LMDh challenge has been preserving him cockpit-ready within the low season. Personally, does he really feel {that a} reset was wanted?

“We got here shut [to winning] a couple of occasions however for numerous causes we didn’t obtain that” Romain Grosjean

“Once more, time will inform since you by no means know actually,” he says. “After all, it’s good to be again after what occurred, the entire scenario on the subject of Andretti – however I nonetheless need to thank them, as a result of we did have some nice occasions collectively. It simply didn’t work out the best way we had thought. So we strive to not go there, however I nonetheless had fun there.

“It’s essential to say that we each needed to win races and we didn’t try this. We got here shut a couple of occasions however for numerous causes we didn’t obtain that. But it surely wasn’t all unhealthy.”

In 34 races throughout the previous two seasons with Andretti, Grosjean netted three runner-up finishes, 5 top-fives and two poles. He completed thirteenth within the championship standings each years.

“It was a very good begin, however then it didn’t fall the best way we needed it to,” displays Grosjean. “We had the flawed push happening and we didn’t handle to cease it in time. Then we kinda targeted on successful races and never a lot excited about the championship, and that didn’t work in any respect.

Grosjean scored three runners-up finishes with Andretti, but failed to register a race win

Photograph by: Richard Dole / Motorsport Images

Grosjean scored three runners-up finishes with Andretti, however didn’t register a race win

“When the spiral will get going it’s very onerous to cease in IndyCar as a result of there’s so little time to reset. It’s not like you’ve got a summer season break and may take a deep breath on trip, and take into consideration what to do higher. It’s simply races after races after races.

“However we nonetheless had some good races. We had the potential to do very well at Gateway, Nashville and Laguna. We led some laps, there was some pleasure in being up there in these races however it didn’t work out our means.

“I used to be fortunate to have an incredible staff round me in Olivier [Boisson, engineer] and all the opposite guys. I’m going to overlook them and I hope they are going to miss me too, as we had enjoyable collectively. It was simply the scenario meant it was… a bit heavy within the background.

After an extended pause he provides: “We tried as onerous as we might, however we didn’t make it work in addition to we needed to. However I felt everybody gave their finest.”

The Juncos issue

There’s little doubt that it is a marriage of comfort, because the formidable Juncos appears to be like to raise its programme with an skilled, high-profile driver – and Grosjean grew to become out there on the driving force market on the final minute, much to Callum Ilott’s misfortune. As a driver, Grosjean’s incessant ardour for achievement is usually seen as a detrimental, however he sees this trait in Juncos and believes they will obtain good issues collectively.

“What I like about Ricardo is that he’s very obsessed with his staff,” says Grosjean. “It’s an enormous challenge that he’s had going for fairly a while now, and he places his coronary heart and soul into it, which I actually respect.

“He tries to do the very best he can and hopefully we will develop collectively. It’s a newish staff, I might say, so there’s nonetheless so much to study. And I’m excited by that problem and to see what we will obtain collectively.”

Grosjean cites Ricardo Juncos's passion as a key appeal in joining the squad

Photograph by: James Black

Grosjean cites Ricardo Juncos’s ardour as a key enchantment in becoming a member of the squad

The deal has come collectively so shortly that Grosjean isn’t even positive precisely how the staff will look subsequent 12 months, when it comes to its engineering plan: “I dunno but. We’re preserving that very quiet, even contained in the staff, so I’m going to begin assembly the fellows on zoom and e mail this afternoon, after which I’m in Europe subsequent week however I’ll come again by way of Indianapolis and see all the fellows then.

“To date every part has been nearly getting issues rolling between us. I don’t assume there’s going to be any testing this 12 months, so my guess is we’ll be at Sebring early in 2024 like everybody else does! We’ve got an enormous break between race one and race two, so there are potentialities there.”

One Positive he does see in becoming a member of a smaller IndyCar staff is the welcoming surroundings he found at Dale Coyne Racing, when he joined the collection for his maiden season in 2021. Bear in mind, though they had been thought to be minnows, Grosjean scored a trio of podium finishes – and he admits it was on his radar for a return.

“While you signal for an Andretti, Ganassi or McLaren you anticipate to win races immediately” Romain Grosjean

“Dale’s was one other staff I talked to after the season,” he says. “I had an incredible time with Dale and his staff. It’s troublesome to check as a result of Juncos is a more recent staff and Dale is among the longest veteran staff bosses on the market!

“From that side it’s totally different however while you signal for an Andretti, Ganassi or McLaren you anticipate to win races immediately. With Juncos or Dale, that’s not anticipated. But it surely nonetheless offers you a very good likelihood.”

Perception: The long evolution of Dallara’s Indy 500 winner

So what are the expectations?

“Preserve constructing, continue to grow the staff,” he replies.“Be taught from me, and for myself to maintain bettering – as a result of I don’t assume that ever stops in racing. Preserve loving it, maintain having enjoyable.

“Let’s rating some factors and get as many high 10s as we will. And attempt to be constantly up there. Work on methods, that’s an enormous a part of IndyCar, to make the precise calls, and work our means up that means.”

Grosjean thrived in a smaller team environment when he first arrived in IndyCar with Dale Coyne's team in 2021

Photograph by: Artwork Fleischmann

Grosjean thrived in a smaller staff surroundings when he first arrived in IndyCar with Dale Coyne’s staff in 2021

One other side shall be a swap to Chevrolet energy from Honda engines for the primary time in his IndyCar profession.

“That’s going to be a bit a part of this deal,” Grosjean provides. “I texted Honda yesterday to thank them for every part they’ve accomplished for me.

“Honda was an enormous a part of me becoming a member of IndyCar. David Salters and all his staff have been completely superb to me, so Chevrolet goes to be totally different. However they’ve been doing an excellent job in these previous couple of years and with the hybrid coming, that’s going to be new for everybody. I believe that’s positively going to be a bit problem for everybody, together with the drivers.

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“From chatting with others, I do know the Chevy has strengths and weaknesses in comparison with the Honda, so I’m excited to search out out and there’s nothing higher than making an attempt it for your self.”

Grosjean is determined to keep 'having fun' at Juncos, but will the results follow?

Photograph by: Gavin Baker / Motorsport Images

Grosjean is set to maintain ‘having enjoyable’ at Juncos, however will the outcomes observe?

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