Blundell back on track after a pair of close calls

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The Independent Online
Motor racing

Britain's Mark Blundell heads for the US and another season of IndyCars next week, carrying the sort of baggage racing drivers are not supposed to declare.

"I must admit I don't know how I'll react when I get back on that particular track," he said from the sanctuary of a French restaurant by the Thames in London yesterday. "That is going to be hard, very hard."

The particular track in question is an oval at Homestead, Florida, where two weeks ago the 30-year-old's car careered out of control at almost 200mph and crashed heavily. He has tested since elsewhere and has little more than aches and pains to show for the ordeal.

He did, however, sustain more mental scars to add to those from a big accident in Rio last March. Trepidation is one thing, gnawing fear quite another.

"It is a worry when you have two big ones in less than a year, even though you know neither was your own fault, and you start to wonder how many more you can get away with," he said. "The team thought I would have died in that crash at Homestead. I thought I was going to die in Rio."

Blundell, squeezed out of the competitive equation in Formula One at the end of 1995, had a couple of fifth places to show for his endeavours and anxiety last season. He is driven on this year by the continuing lack of better opportunities in grand prix racing, the prospect of improved results with the PacWest team.

He said: "Formula One is tame compared with Indy racing. In the purest sense, yes, Formula One is up there, the ultimate, but, to actually race, IndyCars is fantastic. It's real racing, with overtaking and up to 15 guys who can win.

"I was offered a grand prix drive with Lola, but why should I be spending my time at the back of the grid when I can look to be at the front of the grid and even win a race in IndyCars?

"I can't help feel Formula One is pushing the self-destruct button. The concept is glamorous, but it's all the peripheral stuff that really attracts the people, not the racing."

For all that, Blundell would return Formula One given the chance of driving that elusive competitive car. He said: "I still believe I could do it given the equipment. I'm only 30, and even in the cars I've had I've scored points in about half my races. Maybe that opportunity will come, who knows? But for now I'm focused on what I have to do this year and it's up to me to make the best of it."

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