Christian Lundgaard forges a new path in his young life, venturing into a series of races and into a land both unknown to him but full of optimism that a renewed spark in his long-standing passion will lead to many success.
On Wednesday, Lundgaard and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing announced a multi-year deal that will see the Danish rider take over the No. 30 Honda from the NTT INDYCAR SERIES starting next season.
The switch to North America’s first open-wheel series comes after a successful switch to the Formula 1 ladder system. Lundgaard, 20, competed in Formula 3 in 2019, claiming a victory at the Hungaroring and two podiums. In 2020 he moved to Formula 2 for ART Grand Prix, where he claimed two victories, at the Red Bull Ring and Mugello, as well as six podiums.
But during a 2021 F2 campaign that has won three top-10s so far, the Alpine Academy rider has started looking for a change, both professionally and culturally. After a test with RLL and an NTT INDYCAR SERIES race – the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in August, where he qualified fourth and finished 12th – he realized that was exactly what he was looking for.
“I am delighted to be here,” he said. “I came to race without any expectations, and it went pretty well. The whole culture in America is so different from what I’m used to. When I got a taste of the INDYCAR car and passed the Barber (Motorsports Park) test, I think for me it was a new experience, something completely different from what I was used to .
Team co-owner Bobby Rahal said RLL chairman Piers Phillips first brought Lundgaard to his attention after noticing his success abroad. So they put Lundgaard in the No.45 car, which the team drove part-time in 2021 and used to test whoever they wanted in the car full-time next season. Santino Ferrucci and Oliver Askew also had passages in the car.
Rahal said every step of the process with Lundgaard went extremely well, and he believed Lundgaard presented the brightest future for the three-car organization which includes drivers Graham Rahal and Jack Harvey.
“The test at Barber went very, very well with Christian,” said Rahal. “We just felt that the package that we saw that Christian really represented the direction in which we wanted to go, and that’s why we made the decision to go with Christian.”
Lundgaard has aspired to run professionally all his life. His young racing career took him from his homeland, Denmark, across Europe and beyond in karting and then in single-seater.
He comes from a family of racers, including his father, Henrik, European rally champion. Her mother is a former motocross rider, and her uncle, cousin and brother have all raced.
Lundgaard enjoyed success from a young age and this led him to join the prestigious Alpine Academy in 2017. His goal was to reach Formula 1, in which Alpine F1 Team will field the cars of the two-time F1 world champion. and Indianapolis 500 starter Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon.
But with limited success this season (he’s 11th in the F2 Championship standings) and a cap he can go on in F1 due to Alpine having no openings, Lundgaard admits it’s taken its toll on him. . After seeing Romain Grosjean spark renewed interest in racing with his part-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES season in 2021, Lundgaard realized he wanted it too.
He said his NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut in the # 45 Honda was a refreshing approach to racing in a series that prioritizes the rider’s skills over aerodynamics. All in all, he admits he was surprised at how much he enjoyed his time in the racing capital of the world.
At a crossroads in his young career, he decided he had to go the path that makes him happiest. And this route is a 17-race NTT INDYCAR SERIES program, which will feature its oval debut at Texas Motor Speedway and the 106th race of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
In preparation for the change of scenery, Lundgaard said he spoke to many riders who have made the transition to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and discussed the different cultures within the open and friendly INDYCAR paddock and the more secluded international racing culture.
“At the end of the day it depended on what I personally want and what I will enjoy, and for me when I raced here that’s what I enjoyed the most,” said Lundgaard. “I haven’t enjoyed a race weekend as much as this in years, except obviously when you have a really good weekend in everything you do and win and dominate.
“It’s more about racing than a lot of other things. Here you come, you enjoy, you love to drive. When you first start in Europe you have, say, the right feeling of racing that you love, but the more you do it, you kind of die, the spirit dies.
Lundgaard said that running in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES has ignited “a whole new spark that has sparked in me”, and he looks forward to stoking that during his rookie campaign. He will compete for Rookie of the Year honors alongside a group of new drivers, including fellow F2 graduate Callum Ilott.
But before he can light that fire, Lundgaard has two more F2 races on his schedule, December 4 in Saudi Arabia and December 11 in Abu Dhabi. Then his only focus may turn to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, which will kick off its season just over two months later with the Firestone Grand Prix in St. Petersburg on February 27.