Rubens Barrichello thrilled by ovals
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Veteran open-wheel driver Rubens Barrichello quickly found out just how much different it is driving fast in circles.
Barrichello, who moved to IndyCar this season after a record 325 races in Formula One the past 19 years, topped 200 mph during his rookie oval test Monday at the high-banked 1½-mile Texas Motor Speedway.
"It was bloody fast, and very, very much different than anything I have ever tried," Barrichello said after his nearly hour-long session when he was the only car on the track. "I've had places that in Formula One that they say, `Oh, it's almost flat and it's a big corner and it's a big challenge.' But the walls were never so close."
The 39-year-old Brazilian started his test after KV Racing Technology teammate and old friend Tony Kanaan first ran some warm-up laps in the car.
"I'm truly excited from what I just had," Barrichello said. "But my mind is still processing everything that has just happened."
The session for Barrichello came before joining nine other cars in an open test at the track. Only two drivers ran more than Barrichello's 123 laps during which his top speed was 206.848 mph.
"I'm driving well, but I'm not driving my best just yet," he said. "I'm not familiar with everything."
Barrichello is the biggest name to move to an American-based open-wheel series since F1 champion Nigel Mansell joined CART in 1993 and won five races and the series title that season. Barrichello finished second in the F1 drivers' championship in 2002 and 2004, both times behind seven-time champion Michael Schumacher.
"It was fun for me to see him nervous in a race car. I don't think I've ever seen him like this," Kanaan said. "It was quite exciting to see how excited he got, and how happy he got out of the car saying how awesome it is. ... I'm glad he liked it. Now the real challenge begins, which it will be to learn as much as he can, and try to get faster."
Since announcing his move earlier this year, Barrichello's first four IndyCar races have been on road and street courses. He has three top-10 finishes and is 11th in season points.
Barrichello's rookie test was originally set for Sunday night. But the team had to resolve some minor problems with the car, creating a longer wait for the excited driver.
"I could see how much excited because I slept (Sunday) night thinking about it was going to happen ... and I woke up on the other side of the bed," he said. "So I was already ovaling in my dreams."
IndyCar's next race is the Indianapolis 500 in three weeks, which will be his oval racing debut. The series will be at Texas on June 9.
"It's going to be a learning process," Kanaan said. "I think he's going to be OK, but it's going to take him a little bit."
Barrichello is planning to participate in the full 16-race schedule, which includes five ovals. He views the season as an exciting, new challenge -- like his first oval laps Monday.
"Otherwise, I would have stayed home," he said. "I'm getting (too) old to have exciting moments if I don't enjoy. So I truly love this. This is awesome."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press