Juri Vips rejected DTM and endurance racing offers to chase “long-term” career in IndyCar

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Juri Vips has confirmed that he hopes to be on the IndyCar grid full-time in 2024 as he gets the chance to impress Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and potential other suitors following the announcement yesterday that he’ll race at Portland and Laguna Seca.

For many years Vips chased the goal of making it to Formula One, but he ultimately failed to make it. The Estonian looked favourite for a potential AlphaTauri seat this year on the basis that he drove in FP1 for Red Bull Racing at last year’s Spanish Grand Prix.

However, the use of a racist slur on Twitch last June ended his hopes and lost his place in the Red Bull junior squad.

Speaking during a media call on Monday after the announcement he would drive the #30 for the final two rounds, Vips admits he doesn’t even consider F1 in his plans due to his enjoyment of the US and IndyCar.

“At the moment I have no thoughts of F1 at all. I really like it here in the States. I’ve come to a couple of INDYCAR races now, spent a bit of time here. So I’m really, really liking INDYCAR and everything about it, America.

“It’s a very different environment to the F1 environment, and I’m just enjoying it so much. I’ve of forgotten about F1 a bit. I don’t have any ambitions towards that at the moment, but yeah, trying to get a full-time drive for next year.”

After leaving Hitech at the end of the 2022 Formula 2 season, Vips’ time in the series was done after two full seasons and four rounds in 2020.

Photo credit: Red Bull Content Pool

The 23-year-old admitted yesterday he received offers to race in DTM and endurance racing, but the 3-time Formula 2 race winner added he wants to be in IndyCar for the long haul.

“I never looked for a seat in F2 for this year. So, yeah, it was looking difficult just to get any, like — we were looking more towards INDYCAR, but yeah, it was looking pretty difficult for that.

“I ended up having a couple of offers through some endurance racing, DTM, and stuff like this full-time this year, but I would rather take a chance with INDYCAR because the thing for me is if I look at myself long-term, that’s the series I want to be in. That’s what I want to do.

“I think once you sort of commit yourself to a program in GTs, Endurance or something, you are kind of committed there, and it’s hard then to make the transition after.

“So I’m really grateful for Bobby for this opportunity because, yeah, I want to prove myself, and I want to stay on the grid here.”

Fellow European driver, former F2 rival and now RLL teammate Christian Lundgaard spoke recently about how much more relaxed and less political racing is in IndyCar compared to Europe.

Vips admits the atmosphere and feel of an IndyCar paddock is very different to how things were in Europe. He believes the racing is exceptionally good, too.

“I really like it [the series] so much. When you come to a race weekend, it’s just such a different atmosphere. Like, the paddock is very open. The fans get to see the cars, see the drivers, be really close to them. Be like — I don’t know how to say — maybe immersed, I think, in the experience much more.

“Yeah, the racing is awesome. That’s one side that I really like about it. You get such close racing. It’s very hard here, but when you watch the races, they’re super exciting.

“So, yeah, that’s the appeal I have for INDYCAR, and yeah, I think it’s just an awesome series.”

The driver from Estonia heads into this weekend’s race at Portland with only two tests under his belt in an IndyCar. He tested for RLL at Sebring last year, and Vips got another chance to do some laps at Barber earlier this season.

While conceding he has some worries about how things will go initially as he hasn’t raced since last November in Abu Dhabi, Vips is sure things will be fine when he starts to get mileage under his belt.

“I am doing everything I possibly can to be as ready as I could, and I know that once I start driving out of pit lane I’m not going to be as comfortable as I am on any other race weekend. I know it’s going to take a little bit of time to catch up and build confidence in the race car.

“But, yeah, I’m worried a little bit just because I haven’t done it in so long, but to be honest, I think it’s all going to go really well.

“Once I get confidence, I’m not worried at all, but it’s just — yeah, I just need some laps with the car because I haven’t driven at all for a long time. Yeah, just need some laps. Need to build the confidence up.

“As soon as I do, that, I’m not worried at all. I think the car should be quite good on both these surfaces that I’m doing. Yeah, not too worried.”