Story by James
the 1996 Italian SuperFormula Champion, is close to
finalising a test and race programme with a leading
Indy Racing League team.
Gene, 22, who lives in
Buckingham England, and Barcelona, Spain, has been
searching for a ride in the IRL since the end of
November and his quest has just been boosted by the
signing of a sponsorship deal with to major Spanish
"These deals have
happened just at the right time, " Gene said
this week. "It has been a hard struggle to gain
any backing from companies, although my last year's
sponsor, Quaker State, have always planned to aid my
Two tests for Nordic
Racing in a Formula 3000 car have kept Gene on his
toes during the closed season, although he must
prepare himself for something of a culture shock as
he heads to America and the famed oval speedways.
"Driving on an
oval will be so very different from anything I have
ever done before. I am really looking forward to the
challenge and I am confident that I can be a
success," Gene added.
Originally it was
hoped that Gene would make his IRL debut at the
Phoenix International Raceway, round four of the
1996/97 season, on March 23rd, although it
now looks likely that his debut will take place at a
test session in April at either Las Vegas or
Prior to racing in the
IRL Gene will have to take and pass a 'rookie test'
governed by the American organisational body, USAC.
The four part test
must be completed in controlled conditions under the
watchful eye of USAC officials. When they are
convinced of a driver's capability of driving on an
oval track, the driver in question is granted a
licence to race IRL.
A representative of
USAC said this week, "Marc Gene will sail
through the rookie test. A driver of his standard
will be a major gain to the Indy Racing League as it
continues to establish itself in the motoring
If Gene's maiden IRL
drive is a success then the possibility still stands
that he may make a racing debut in the Indy 500 on
May 25th, the 81st running of
'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing'.
Aside from racing in
IRL, Gene will also contest selected rounds of the
FIA International F3000 Championship. Two teams,
Nordic Racing and Coloni, are keen to sign him for
the 1997 season and a deal looks set to be completed
within the next fortnight.
The F3000 season kicks
off at Silverstone on May11th, although a major
pre-season test takes place at the Northants venue on
April 23rd and 24th.
Throughout the entire
season Gene will be wearing crash helmets
manufactured by Japanese company Shoei.
Shoei America, based
in Yorba Linda, California, recently signed a deal
with Gene to cover him for 1997 and beyond. A Shoei
spokesman said, "Marc is a great driver and we
look forward to supporting him in 1997. Racing in
both IRL and F3000 we are confident he will win races
and that is good not just for him but us also."