- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 8, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Lotus confirmed Tuesday that it will back former Formula One driver Jean Alesi in his attempt to race in the Indianapolis 500.

The 47-year-old Alesi ran 13 seasons in F1, but has been out of that series since 2001. He will attempt to qualify for the Indy 500 with Fan Force United, a team co-owned by former IndyCar driver Tyce Carlson.

It will be Alesi’s first race on an oval. Alesi arrived in Indianapolis on Monday, and will participate in the rookie orientation program on Thursday. The first practice for the May 27 race is Saturday.

“It’s going to be very interesting to see how far natural skill can get him,” Lotus said in a statement. “To date, Jean has never driven an IndyCar and never raced on an oval. However, he has spent many hours on Dallara’s state-of-the-art simulator, where he’s been honing his technique, getting a handle on differing IndyCar setups, and driving in a variety of conditions.”

Lotus would not discuss financials of the situation, but said Swiss watchmaker FP Journe will be part of the program as a continuation of its personal sponsorship deal with Alesi.

Alesi said he’s looking forward to finally getting a chance to run Indy.

“We’ve been talking about this race for a long time, and trying to find the right team to go with,” he said. “I’m very happy to be joining Fan Force United. Lotus believes it’s the right place for me to be, and I trust the team completely and am sure we will do a super job.

“I feel ready for the Indy 500, but also I am very happy to be doing the rookie test. This will give me time to gain confidence and the feeling for the car and the track.”

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