Tony Kanaan says he’s delighted to be back racing at Spa-Francorchamps, a quarter of a century since his one-and-only previous appearance at the Belgian circuit.
The 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner has joined Ford Chip Ganassi Racing for this weekend’s Total Six Hours of Spa, assisting with the GTE-Pro championship bid of co-drivers Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell.
Kanaan’s last outing at the Ardennes circuit was in 1993 for the Formula Opel Lotus series, as part of that year’s Belgian Grand Prix support bill.
“There’s not a lot that I really remember,” said Kanaan.
“It’s been a long time and it was the one time. Some of these guys were not even born when I was last here, and the chicane was the other way around, so I was confused this morning!
“But this is one of the legendary tracks. Even if you don’t ever race here you play it on the simulator or video game.
“It’s a tricky track, and it’s very difficult to come in on a weekend like this and do probably 15 laps before the race.”
Kanaan is using the FIA World Endurance Championship season-opener as preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, which he is also entering with Priaulx and Tincknell.
A clash with IndyCar’s doubleheader in Detroit means he will be unable to attend the Le Mans Test Day.
Kanaan told Sportscar365 that he hasn’t driven the Ford since last year’s 24-hour and that Thursday’s pair of free practice sessions, in which he clocked the sixth best time in class, marked his first outing since.
Despite the lack of recent seat time, the Brazilian is confident that he will execute his objective of a trouble-free run to help his co-drivers challenge for class honors on Saturday.
“The car is strong, the guys are good,” said Kanaan. “I just want to stay out of trouble and help them. That’s what I’m here for.
“I’m not here for a personal goal, I’m here as part of a team that wants to win the championship, wants to win every race and wants to be prepared for Le Mans.
“For me this weekend, I just want to get accustomed to the car again. It’s plenty fast so if we can win the race I’m going to do my best to stay out of trouble and give the car back the way it was handed to me.”
Kanaan Honored for Le Mans Call-Up
Kanaan said that it was a “big time” honor to be called up by Chip Ganassi to race at Le Mans for the second time.
He finished sixth in his debut last year driving one of Ford’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship entries with Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand, as a late replacement for the injured Sebastien Bourdais.
Kanaan stopped driving for the Ganassi IndyCar outfit at the end of last year but remained in contact with the operation.
Although additional races have not yet been confirmed, he said he’s “available” to race at both the 1,000-mile race at Sebring next March and the season-ending 24 Hours of Le Mans in June 2019, should the need arise.
“[Returning] tells you, the relationship with Chip was always good. It was never bitter,” said Kanaan.
“We came to a conclusion that it was four years we spent together [in IndyCar] and some things went well, some things didn’t, and we decided that we both needed something new.
“They have a full championship ahead of them, so they’re extremely kind to let me do a couple of hours of this race in preparation for Le Mans which they really didn’t need to do.
“They invited me back, so I’m extremely excited.”
John Dagys contributed to this report