FORMER Formula One world champion Jacques Villeneuve is to race in next month’s V8 Supercars championship event, the Townsville 400.
The colourful 41-year-old Canadian will make a one-off appearance in the North Queensland event from July 6-8, driving for the Pepsi Max team in the absence of New Zealander Greg Murphy who underwent back surgery this month and will miss 4-5 races.
V8 Supercars chief executive David Malone hailed the deal as a coup for the championship, the team and the event.
“Jacques is a 24 Hours of Le Mans win away from being only the second man in history to win the coveted Triple Crown of motorsports – the Indianapolis 500, the Formula One Championship, and the Le Mans endurance event,” said Malone.
“He is the kind of driver who is always looking to push himself. It’s in his blood.”
Villeneuve won the 1997 world championship for Williams-Renault during his 12-year stint in Formula One to 2007 and also won the 1995 Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar world series.
He has some experience in a V8 Supercar – as a co-driver to Paul Dumbrell in the Gold Coast 600 in 2010 – and was looking forward to returning.
“I feel for Greg Murphy having to miss a number of races in the championship as there is nothing worse for a race driver than sitting on the sidelines with an injury and not being able to accumulate points in the series,” said Villeneuve in a statement.
“When this opportunity came up only one week ago, the stars all aligned and thankfully my commitments with the NASCAR Nationwide Penske Team in America and Porsche Supercup events in Europe allowed me to grab the Pepsi Max Crew seat for the Townsville race in an instant.
“V8 Supercars is a spectacular race series and I had a great experience on the Gold Coast back in October 2010.”