It is a return to a familiar playground for Ryan Briscoe with this weekend’s Indianapolis 8 Hour Presented by AWS.
Briscoe, who captured eight wins during his NTT INDYCAR SERIES career (2005-15), will make his second appearance in the endurance classic at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, teaming with Jarett Andretti and Jeff Westphal to co-drive the No. 218 Ferrari 488 GT3 in the Pro class as part of a one-off partnership between Vital Speed and Andretti Autosport.
“It's a fun, one-off race to do,” Briscoe said. “It feels special doing it with Vital Speed. They're a really small team, family group. They have experience from doing Ferrari Challenge. I've worked with them doing some coaching in the past, really great small group of guys. The Indy 8 Hour we did three years ago (in 2020) was their first big race that they'd done - first race with pit stops, anything like that. This will be the second race they've ever done with pit stops.”
The team tested a few weeks ago at Sonoma Raceway, and Briscoe’s co-driver Andretti is coming off the high of winning the LMP3 class last weekend in the Petit Le Mans race at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
“I think it's just awesome they partnered with Jarett Andretti and his group at Andretti Autosport,” Briscoe said. “I think it's giving everyone a massive opportunity to come out and do well this weekend. We're excited. For me, it's a lot of fun. It's a great opportunity for everyone involved to go out and mix it up with a lot of the regulars that run this championship all the time. Hopefully, we can run competitively and get a good result out of it.”
The Australian-American has long been a fixture in sports car racing, even during his time competing in the INDYCAR SERIES. Briscoe’s resume is padded with numerous class victories and an overall victory in the 2020 edition of the Rolex 24 At Daytona – the crown jewel of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In June, he helped lead Glickenhaus Racing to third overall in the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“Overall, I think with the experience I've had in both, it just helps you be a complete driver and understand all the possibilities are out there and different teams to work with and teammates,” Briscoe said. “I'd say one of the biggest things with sports car racing that's very different to Indy car racing is you're sharing your race car with teammates. It's not just like having a teammate on an INDYCAR team. You're literally sharing your seat, your comfort, the setup of your car, everything. So, you've got to work very closely and amicably with your teammates. There's going to be some compromise here and there, and you've got to work toward just making the best complete package with your teammates. I think that's something you learn with experience.”
Another big difference between sports car racing and INDYCAR SERIES racing is the wait, Briscoe said.
“Also, the hard thing in sports car racing, you spend a lot of time on the timing stand watching your teammates drive,” Briscoe said. “You're not in the car all the time, either. So, there's a lot of trust in what they're doing and the feedback that they're giving during different times. It's fun. That's, I think, one of the challenges and fun parts of sports car racing. It's just different, and it's just a part of it.”
Over the years Briscoe, the pole sitter for the 2012 Indianapolis 500, has maintained a presence around the INDYCAR paddock, most recently as a driver coach for AJ Foyt Racing driver Dalton Kellett.
In many ways, there remains a curiosity factor for a reunion with Briscoe behind the wheel of an INDYCAR SERIES car. Now, at 41, he looks at the likes of 47-year-old Helio Castroneves, who returned to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES as a full-time driver this year after four partial seasons that comprised primarily with the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
“Well, I certainly feel young and fit,” said Briscoe, who is no stranger to running marathons. “I keep fit. I think the big thing with Helio is ... it's inspiring for one because it's just freaking awesome what he's done at this point in his career. He's a great friend of mine, and I love watching him have so much success at this late stage in his career. It's fun to see that happen, as well. And (Scott) Dixon and (Will) Power in the championship and these guys, because I guess it keeps, potentially, me not relevant because of my age, because all these guys obviously are doing well at my age or older than me.
“So, ruling someone out because they're 40 or 41 is not a valid reason because you can see that as long as you take care of yourself, we're all still as good as anyone out there, even some of these younger guys in their 20s and 30s.”
Briscoe’s last full-time North American sports car season came in 2020 in IMSA, teaming with Renger van der Zende in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi prototype. They finished just one point behind Castroneves and Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Team Penske Acura in the DPi standings.
Working with Kellett in the INDYCAR SERIES paddock in 2022 has rekindled the open-wheel flame a bit for Briscoe. While he said he is open to any opportunities that may come his way, especially a one-off ride at the Indy 500, he’s not aggressively pursuing an NTT INDYCAR SERIES seat.
“I love INDYCAR racing,” Briscoe said. “I love the circuit; I love the championship and everything that goes with it. And I really enjoyed my sports car racing, as well. You just get to a point where you're going into a new year where you've got to make a decision on which path you're going to take. Is it going to be sports cars or Indy cars? And that really just depends on what opportunities you have in front of you.”