Jacques Villeneuve says that he has finally got comfortable with his Subaru WRX STI ahead of his maiden Americas Rallycross semi-final appearance.
The 1997 Formula 1 world champion was a late addition to the ARX field for round three at Trois-Rivieres this weekend, piloting the third factory Subaru entry previously driven by David Higgins and Travis Pastrana.
The event marks the first time since 2014 that Villeneuve has competed in top-level rallycross competition, and other than a pre-event test earlier in the week, his first opportunity to reacquaint himself with rallycross came during practice yesterday.
“Rallycross hasn’t changed that much actually,” Villeneuve, speaking to The Checkered Flag, said of his time away. “I just think it’s gotten more and more professional obviously but still the same rules, same kind of cars, same kind of drivers so it doesn’t feel that four years have gone by.”
Subaru has improved throughout the year, but has yet to get on the podium so far this season. Despite his storied track record, which also includes an Indy 500 triumph and CART title, Villeneuve didn’t come into the weekend with lofty expectations.
“I had no expectations. I didn’t know what it would be like,” he said. “I just knew it would be great to work with a official constructor team.”
“There’s lots of great engineers, it’s big,” he added. “It’s a big operation and that makes it fun because their reaction time to anything is really good.”
Over the four qualifying heats Villeneuve’s performance steadily improved, despite suspension damage ending his Saturday early. A sixth place finish in Q4 moved him firmly into the top eight for the first time, at the expense of Oliver Bennett who was sidelined with turbo issues
“Finally I’m in a spot where I like the car,” he said. “I can drive it, I’m not second-guessing every corner, which is nice, but I lost some track time and its just a little bit too minimal right now.”
“But the car is fun to drive and I’m starting to really enjoy myself.”