The last Formula One World Champion to hail from this continent, Jacques Villeneuve has raced everything from stock cars to Le Mans prototypes and more. But it all started at Indy.

After climbing up the ranks of open-wheel feeder series around the world, Jacques moved up to Indy in 1994, winning his first race that season then winning the championship as well as the Indianapolis 500 the following year. He didn't stick around the Indy circuit long after that, following his father's footsteps into F1 the next season, winning four grands prix and the title the year after that. But now, after trying his hand at just about everything else, JV is returning to Indy.

In a deal just announced, Villeneuve is set to compete in the Indianapolis 500 this year with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. The team run by quadriplegic former race winner Sam Schmidt, former Indy driver Davey Hamilton and former Atlantic series champion chief Ric Peterson won two rounds last year (the street races at Belle Isle and Baltimore) with Simon Pagenaud behind the wheel.

This will mark the first time he'll compete in open wheels since leaving Sauber in 2006 (discounting the exhibition event pictured above where he drove his dad's Ferrari) and the first time he'll drive an IndyCar since winning the title 19 years ago. The last time he drove at Indy was in the Brickyard 400 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in 2010, finishing in 29th place. Having also driven in the United States Grand Prix five times, Villeneuve stands alongside JP Montoya as one of just two drivers to compete in all three major racing series at IMS.

JV is rumored to be bringing big sponsorship cash with him to Schmidt, and some star power to the grid which race organizers are desperately trying to fill. He'll have to juggle his drive in the new FIA World Rallycross Championship, however, to make it happen. Read the full press release below and visit the team's website for all the details.
Show full PR text
Villeneuve To Return To Indianapolis 500 In Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Entry
Canadian Champion To Make First Indy Car Start Since 1995 Victory At Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS (Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014) -- Former Indy car and Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve will compete in the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 in a car prepared by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, his first participation in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" since winning the event in 1995. Jacques Villeneuve

Villeneuve's entry in the 2014 Indianapolis 500 marks the 20th anniversary of his first start in 1994, in which the French-Canadian driver finished second and claimed Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year honors. Villeneuve, 42, won the race and the CART season championship the following year.

"To have the opportunity to return to Indy car racing and the Indianapolis 500 is something I never thought possible," Villeneuve said. "The memories I have there will stay with me for the rest of my life, and I'm excited to create new memories in 2014."

Following his CART championship, Villeneuve jumped to Formula One in 1996, winning 11 of his first 34 grands prix and the Drivers' World Championship for Williams in 1997. He remained a Formula One regular with BAR, Renault and Sauber before switching to NASCAR in 2007.

Villeneuve has competed in selected Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series events as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He is one of two drivers to compete in IndyCar, NASCAR Sprint Cup and Formula One cars at Indianapolis. The other is 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya, who is returning to the IndyCar Series in 2014 as a full-time driver with Team Penske.

"I've been fortunate enough to compete in several of the world's top racing series, and nothing excites me more than entering the IndyCar Series at its current level of competitiveness," Villeneuve said. "Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has proven itself able to compete with the largest of teams, and I am excited to get to work with Sam and the team and start preparing for May."

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, led by team principal Sam Schmidt and businessman Ric Peterson, is entering its third year of competition in the IndyCar Series. In its first season as a one-car operation with Simon Pagenaud in 2012, the team quickly made its mark as Pagenaud claimed the Rookie of the Year title and placed fifth in the series championship.

Following Peterson's addition to ownership in 2013, the team expanded to two cars, again capturing Rookie of the Year honors with 2012 Firestone Indy Lights champion Tristan Vautier and gathering two wins and third place in the series championship with Pagenaud.

"We're very pleased to have a driver of the caliber of Jacques in our lineup in May," Schmidt said. "He's a former winner in the event and brings tremendous experience from his success in the world's top racing series. The trust Jacques is putting in Schmidt Peterson Motorsports also validates the progress all of our team members have made in creating an organization capable of competing with anyone."

Said Peterson: "Having grown up in Canada, the name Villeneuve is synonymous with winning. I was even there in person when he won the Indy 500 in 1995, and Jacques being the only Canadian to win that huge event, it gave me a huge sense of national pride. It is an honor to have the opportunity to be involved in bringing Jacques back to the '500,' and we look forward to a fantastic result."

Villeneuve's victory in 1995 at Indianapolis came after a stirring drive. He was two laps down midway through the 500-Mile Race, but rallied to win by 2.481 seconds in a Team Green entry.

"This May is shaping up to be unbelievably exciting, so the return of Jacques Villeneuve to the Indy 500 couldn't be better timed," said Mark Miles, CEO, Hulman & Company. "Race fans from around the world will be dialed in to see a champion return to the track. We can't wait to welcome him back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway."

I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago
      • 9 Months Ago
      Beautiful tribute to Gilles............RIP
        • 9 Months Ago
        Ya man, as a Canadian, to see him rip around in the 27 was pretty special.
      • 9 Months Ago
      Scott Goodyear won that Indy 500 , not Jacques. Some idiot in the pace car slows down on the track before exiting to the pit lane and gets past by Scott. Every driver is taught to get up to speed when the pace car is about to exit after a caution .So Scott gets a penalty. Scott had the field covered all day . All it takes is one bonehead move by someone driving the pace car. Ask Nigel Mansell what happens when you come down to the green flag too slow at Indy.
        • 9 Months Ago
        IIRC, the video shows JV honked on the brakes as the rule was you can't pass the pace car. If I also recall, JV came back from at least one lap town.
      • 9 Months Ago
      Serious question for the staff. Racer magazine broke this story on 2/24, 5 days ago. Why is it that Autoblog is always behind on these (motorsport) stories by days and weeks? Is there a policy to not report on a story due to some mitigating factors? I read AB every day and when I see a story like this I feel bad for the site, it just doesn't look good for you when CNN, a decidedly non motoring news outlet, beats you to a story of this magnitude. A staff response would be welcomed.
        Pj Taintz
        • 9 Months Ago
        only answer i can come up with is that this is a blog, not a news outlet. as such it gets some leway on things like timing.
      • 9 Months Ago
      I don't see a point to coming back at this point…but hey…I've always given credit to JV. He was the only guy to face the Schumacher challenge and not blink - what a pass on the outside he made!
        Alex Ingram
        • 9 Months Ago
        Except for Mika Hakkinen and Fernando Alonso. Also Villeneuve had to be in a vastly superior car to beat Schumacher..
      Peter Middleton
      • 9 Months Ago
      Be fun to be an old racing driver. Race 12 hr Sebring, 24hr LeMans, Indy500.... sit back and relax rest of the year