I was very sorry to hear of the death of Dan Wheldon, the two times Indy 500 winner and IRL series champion. He was killed in an Indycar accident at Las Vegas Speedway.
The race was only his third start this season. Wheldon had taken part at Indy this year on a one-off basis and won the race. He was taking part in a challenge organised by the Indycar series to try to win the race in Vegas from 34th and last place on the grid in pursuit of a $5 million prize fund, when he got caught in a multi car pile up.
“It will be pure entertainment. It’s going to be a pack race, and you never know how that’s going to turn out,” Wheldon wrote in a blog entry before the race.
Dario Franchitti, who was in the race with Wheldon, said “I could see within five laps people were starting to do crazy stuff. I love hard racing but that to me is not really what it’s about. One small mistake from somebody..
“One minute you’re joking around in driver intros and the next he’s gone. He was six years old when I first met him. He was this little kid and the next thing you know he was my team-mate. We put so much pressure on ourselves to win races and championships and today it doesn’t matter.”
Wheldon, from Buckinghamshire, started his career in karts in the UK, racing against Anthony Davidson and Jenson Button with whom he had a rivalry. He was mentored by Terry Fullerton, Ayrton Senna’s great rival from karting days and appropriately, won the FIA ‘Ayrton Senna’ Memorial World Cup. He moved to the USA, rather than chase his F1 dream, because of a lack of funds.
In 2005 he became the first English driver since Graham Hill to win the Indy 500.
His many friends in the world of F1 will be greatly saddened by his untimely death at the age of 33.
Button said, “Just woken up to the most horrific news.. Dan Wheldon RIP… I have so many good memories of racing with Dan in the early 90s, a true fighter. We’ve lost a legend in our sport but also a great guy. I can’t begin to imagine what his family are going through and my thoughts are with them at this very difficult time.”
Team mate Lewis Hamilton said, “This is an extremely sad day. Dan was a racer I’d followed throughout my career, as I often followed in his footsteps as we climbed the motor sport ladder in the UK. He was an extremely talented driver.
“As a British guy, who not only went over to the States but who twice won the Indy 500, he was an inspirational guy, and someone that every racing driver looked up to with respect and admiration. This is a tragic loss at such a young age. My heart goes out to his family and friends during this extremely difficult time.”
Rubens Barrichello said on Twitter, “Just got out from the plane and got the terrible news about the death of our friend. Will always remember the great times we had at karting in Brazil my friend. Rest in peace.”