Who is Álex Palou, the new hero of Spanish motorsport?

At just 24 years old, he became IndyCar champion in his second season in the specialty.

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Spain has a new idol to worship. Is about Alex Palou, who became champion of the American category IndyCar after a season that included three wins and five podiums. At the wheel of the team's number 10 car Chip Ganassi Racing, the Barcelonian of so alone 24 years. He thus achieved a historic triumph and brought to Spanish motorsport one of the few scepters that were missing from their showcases.

For Palou it was enough to be twelfth in Long Beach thanks to the wide advantage with which he reached the last round of the championship. He started tenth with his two title rivals ahead. The Mexican Pato O'Ward was out of the fight for a touch; while the American Josef Newgarden It was not enough for him to finish second since the fourth position that Palou achieved unfailingly catapulted him to consecration.

Alex Palou"What a season! I can not believe it. I am super happy. We have worked very hard. I did not know this circuit, but the team has given me a very good car and the right strategies. We have been very regular all season. It's amazing to be a champion. Now I want to repeat it! ”, Palou said in his first press conference as the 2021 IndyCar champion.

“I am very happy to be the first Spanish rider to win the title and I hope I am not the last. I'm sure we will fight for more Astor Cup (Indycar winner's trophy) in the future. This will open many eyes in Spain and more people will discover the IndyCar. They are going to fall in love with this championship ”, He added.

Palou made his Indycar debut in 2020 with the Dale team Coyne Racing, which he surprised after a brilliant test in Mid-Ohio. Alex had just finished third in the Japanese Super Formula, also in its first season, and its performance had caught the attention of Honda, supplier of the engine of his team (TCS Nakajima) and with the Japanese firm also began his adventure in America.

Alex PalouHis first year in IndyCar, in which he ranked seventh in the Indianapolis 500 and took the podium at Road America, was key to attracting the attention of Chip Ganassi Racing, one of the historic teams in the series.

Palou's debut with Ganassi couldn't have been better. He won in Alabama, the first date of the season; and soon he began to dream of a title that still seemed unthinkable to him. The fight for victory until the last lap in the Indy 500, added to the victories at Road America and Portland, and a total of five podiums, have made him a deserved champion.

The Spanish finished ahead of pilots with a lot of experience and laurels like Newgarden himself, the New Zealander. Scott Dixon, the French Simon Pagenaud or the Australian Will Power.

Alex PalouThe triumph of the Barcelona man is historic for Spanish motorsport, given that no driver from that country had achieved it before. Before Palou, just Oriol Servià, between 2000 and 2013; and Fermin Velez, between 1996 and 1997; they competed with some regularity in IndyCar or its predecessor series. Only Servià (Montreal 2005, scoring for the Champ Car) had won a race to date. While Fernando Alonso He had sporadic participations in the Indianapolis 500 and came to dream of victory in 2017, but an engine problem prevented him.

Palou's successes would not be understood - and probably would not exist - without the work of the sadly missing Adrian Campos. The former Formula 1 driver, founder and owner of Campos Racing, met Palou when he was still competing in karting, a specialty where the young driver believed he would remain for decades as he did not have enough resources to make the jump to single-seaters. After some tests, Adrián assured that he had seen in Palou a talent that could be comparable to that of other pilots with whom he had worked, such as Alonso or Antonio García.

Alex PalouAnd, in sight, he was not wrong. Campos gave him the opportunity to run in the Euroformula Open GT Sport with his team, and in his first year he finished third. Then he went through the GP3 and for the Japanese Formula 3, where he was also third.

He accumulated experience participating in single races of superior championships such as the World Series or the F2, he also raced in Macau and in European Formula 3, but without great results, with teams at the bottom of the table ... until he packed his bags again to go to Japan and race in Super Formula, a competitive category with performance superior to Formula 2 and below Formula 1. Alex finished third again, just 10 points behind the champion, but more importantly, he formed a good relationship with Honda and made the jump to American motorsport.

Alex Palou“Campos was the person who took me to the cars. I was going to do another year of karting. I didn't even think cars were a possibility and he gave me the opportunity. He pushed me in there, so he should be very happy now. I think I would be very, very proud ”, Palou recalled.

In addition to the Spanish, his team, Chip Ganassi Racing, has also been proclaimed 2021 IndyCar champion, and Honda has been confirmed as the engine to beat for the fourth consecutive year and tenth in total, beating Chevrolet by 163 points. Additionally, Palou is the 18th driver to win the Honda-powered IndyCar title. The first came just 25 years ago, when Jimmy Vasser champion was proclaimed in 1996.

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Automundo is the blog about news from the automotive industry, motorsport and the culture of the region. Director: Diego Durruty.

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