Number 293: The 2018 Legendary Races Issue
Until May 27, winning the Indianapolis 500 was pretty much the only thing that Will Power hadn’t done in an IndyCar. It’s hard to imagine anyone arguing that he doesn’t deserve his place among the sport’s greats – a place he could justifiably have claimed even without ticking the biggest box of all. But you will hear debate on where Power’s Brickyard success ranks among the list of Indy thrillers.
Are we missing the point? The 2018 Indy 500 was thrilling in its purity. As our interview with Power suggests, it was a triumph of talent and speed over fuel mileage or lucky yellows. But in years to come, even that won’t matter. What’s important is that Power will forever be introduced as an Indianapolis 500 winner, and that plugs him into something far bigger. Like any legendary race, Indy is greater than its parts.
A few hours before Power’s triumph, we saw a similar example in Monaco. Daniel Ricciardo led every lap, and the positions immediately behind him remained mostly static. Reaction to the procession was swift – as if passing being next to impossible at Monaco was a surprise. But the storyline is what matters. When we look back at Ricciardo’s win, it will be in the context of redemption for his heartbreak in the Principality two years earlier. Ricciardo has added another thread to the race’s history.
Toyota will grapple with this when it returns to Le Mans, June 16-17. Does it only have to beat itself? Probably. But the reason so much is riding on it is the narrative that’s already swelled up around the ill-starred manufacturer’s 24 Hours of Le Mans program over the past few years. If this attempt does deliver that hitherto elusive win, 2018 will be remembered as the year Toyota finally made it to the top of the mountain. Privateer opposition? That will be just a footnote.
That’s the thing about legendary contests like Indy, or Monaco, or Le Mans. The races are merely short scenes. The storylines that play out over years, and ultimately the events themselves, are the real movie.