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Unlike their peers in Formula One, Indy Car drivers compete on a level playing-field: all the cars have the same chassis and engine.Race-days also have a more informal atmosphere, with fans able to get closer to the drivers to secure an autograph or have a chat.
It was his failure to secure funding to advance to Formula Three that persuaded him to try his luck in America.
On the 11th lap, however, Wheldon was involved in a 15-car pile-up; his car burst into flames as it flew into the catch fence.
He was airlifted to a local hospital, where he died of his injuries.
In the race itself, Indy Cars jostle for position just inches apart at speeds in excess of 220mph; accidents are common.
Daniel Clive Wheldon was born at Emberton, near Olney in Buckinghamshire, on June 22 1978.
After about three months I said to myself I just had to forget about Europe and win as much as I could.” He made his Indy Car debut in 2002 with the team Panther Racing, but in 2003 switched to Andretti Green Racing, winning the Rookie of the Year title and earning the nickname “Upside Dan” after a spectacular crash in the Indianapolis 500.