Alex Palou says competing in the Rolex 24 at Daytona has been “one big target” of his, as the reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion is set for his prototype racing debut.
The 24-year-old Spaniard, who won three races en route to his maiden IndyCar title with Chip Ganassi Racing last year, forms part of the team’s Cadillac DPi-V.R lineup for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener.
Sharing the No. 01 Cadillac with full-season drivers Renger van der Zande and Sebastien Bourdais, plus IndyCar legend Scott Dixon, Palou said he got the call up mid-season to slot into the team’s expanded DPi effort for 2022.
“I think Chip knows that I want to drive everything that he can give me,” he told Sportscar365. “Everybody knows that I would drive whatever that has four wheels.
“They already wanted to have a second car before the [IndyCar] championship finished. We already knew before.
“It was around mid-season that the second car was available. I didn’t know until after the championship that I would get a test and then a ride.”
Palou, whose only previous sports car racing experience came in Super GT at the wheel of a GT300-class McLaren 720S GT3 in 2019, said the transition hasn’t been too difficult.
He got his first laps of the Cadillac DPi during a multi-day test at Daytona International Speedway last month.
“It’s different but at the same time it drives quite similar to an IndyCar in terms of speed, the way you drive it. Maybe the IndyCar is a bit more challenging because the way it moves,” Palou explained.
“But at the same time, here, you have less visibility and you cannot attack that much the corners.
“I think they are quite similar and it was quite easy to adapt from one to the other.
“I like the feeling of having a roof [over my head]. It feels quite nice. Also not seeing the wheels makes it challenging for curbs and stuff.
“I’m really excited. It’s the first time I’m going to do a 24-hour race and first time I’m going to do a DPi race.
“It’s going to be exciting. I have some good teammates to learn from.
“For this weekend [at the Roar], it’s just go get used to [the car] and make it as best we can for next week and also for Sunday.
“Hopefully we can prepare ourselves as best we can to have a watch next week.”
Palou: IndyCar “Messed Up” Texas/Sebring Clash
Additional races in CGR’s DPi program have not yet confirmed for Palou, who has ruled himself out of pulling double duty on the March 18-20 weekend that sees IndyCar in action at Texas Motor Speedway in a clash with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
“Sebring for sure not,” he said. “I think IndyCar messed up that race. I don’t know why IndyCar would [schedule a conflicting event].
“As far as I know Sebring is always on the same date.
“It just makes things tougher for us, the drivers, because there’s plenty of weekends to choose from and you choose one of the biggest weekends.
“It’s a shame. I know some guys will try to do it but I’m not.”
Palou said he hopes to be part of the CGR’s lineup for the season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans, although it has not yet been determined.
“There’s nothing solidified yet but I think it also depends on how this goes and how the season goes,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll have another chance.
“The one big target for me was to race in Daytona and try to win it. Being here is very exciting. Having experience, it’s going to help us if we do something next year.”