LONDON - Brazilian Rubens Barrichello completed his IndyCar oval rookie orientation program on Thursday, clearing the way for the Formula One veteran to race at this month's Indianapolis 500.
Despite spending almost two decades in F1, the 39-year-old Barrichello had to prove his skill on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's 2.5-mile oval, going 10 laps at 200-205 mph followed by 15 laps at 205-210 mph and 15 laps at 210 mph or higher.
Barrichello's performance makes him eligible to participate in full practice starting on Saturday at the famed Brickyard and qualifying scheduled for19-20 May.
"I enjoyed today very much," Barrichello said in a statement put out by his team KV Racing. "I want to thank IndyCar for having the Rookie Orientation Programme (ROP) session.
"It allows you to progress gradually without too much pressure, so I was at ease with my car and the whole process.
Barrichello, who spent 19 seasons in F1 and started a record 322 races, moved to the North American-based series this year, making his IndyCar debut at the 25 March series opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.
But for all his experience, Barrichello has never raced on the IndyCar's infamous ovals, something he once promised his wife he would never do.
Racing on ovals requires unique skills and a special bravery as cars stampede around the circuit wheel-to-wheel at speeds of more than 200 mph.
Fans and drivers were reminded of those extreme dangers last October, when Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon was killed in a crash during the series finale at the Las Vegas Speedway.
Barrichello has run just four IndyCar races, all on familiar street and road courses, posting three top 10 finishes and a best result of eighth at the Grand Prix of Alabama.