By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
LONG BEACH, California – Sam Schmidt will go faceoff against racing icon Mario Andretti at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 13. The duo will take the fight in semi-autonomous cars on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile permanent road course prior to the INDYCAR Grand Prix.
Schmidt fell victim to a crash while testing an Indy car in 2000, having been paralyzed ever since. He teamed with Arrow Electronics and will pilot the Corvette Z06 SAM – a car modified with sensors and innovative technology that allows him to drive the vehicle. Sensors mounted on the headset hewears connect to infrared cameras mounted on the dashboard and detect his head-tilt motions to steer. A sip-and-puff device that Schmidt breathes into enables him to accelerate and brake. Voice commands enable Sam to switch gears and turn the car on and off.
Andretti will use the same technology to drive an Arrow-modified Stingray SAM Car.
“It’s always exciting when I can get in this awesome car and go fast,” said Schmidt. “However, this time will have extra meaning as I never had a chance to race against Mario during my driving career. He is a true legend that is world renowned and I appreciate his willingness to participate and showcase the next evolution of this technology.”
Doug Boles, president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, shared his thoughts on the groundbreaking initiative taking place at Indy.
“Indianapolis has long been considered a test ground for automotive technologies, and Sam and the Arrow Chevy Corvette have continued to prove that, including a 150-mph run last year at IMS,” said Boles.
“Adding a match race between Mario Andretti, one of the most popular and talented drivers to ever compete at Indy, and Sam this May just takes the technology to the next level!”
Andretti, who captured the 1969 Indy 500, is excited for the opportunity, but jokingly asked for more power.
“This is awesome,” said Andretti.
“It’s a great opportunity to see what (the project) is all about. I feel like I’m really, really going to be struggling. I just asked for 70 more horsepower and they haven’t said anything.
“It’s going to be interesting on the road course. There will be a lot more work to do and a lot more braking. Hopefully, that will work in my favor. We’re going to have it out, big time.”