Indy Lights announces new car for 2015 and staff updates

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From the, “this didn’t take long” department, less than a month after announcing its new promotional arm, the Indy Lights series has a new car and staff direction planned out.

On Monday, Indy Lights confirmed it will introduce a new car for 2015, as Andersen Promotions Owner and CEO Dan Andersen had hinted at previously. The current chassis will be updated for 2014, before the completely new chassis is introduced the following year.

“In an ideal world, we would be debuting a new Firestone Indy Lights car next season,” Andersen said in a release. “Unfortunately, with our very recent acquisition of the series, there isn’t enough time to accomplish this for 2014. Safety is paramount, and we also want a race car that is attractive and interesting to drivers worldwide. By enhancing the current chassis, bringing in new engine and tire partners to activate and support the series while also reducing costs and offering strong incentive programs to current and potential teams, we give ourselves time to do the job properly.”

Four manufacturers have submitted proposals with the decision due in the next 90 days. Tony Cotman will lead the process as Project Manager; the New Zealander is the President and Founder of NZR Consulting, a track design company, and the former Vice President of Competition at INDYCAR.

Meanwhile on the management side of things, Jason Penix, who has served as Director of Grassroots Initiatives for INDYCAR, has been named to a similar role under the Andersen umbrella in conjunction with INDYCAR. He’ll be the Director of Development Series, a role that oversees all three rungs on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder: Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000, which are all operated under the Andersen Promotions banner.

Much of the Andersen staff already in place for Pro Mazda and USF2000 will work with Penix, and Andersen Promotions looks to expand the staff to provide enough support for all three series.

One of the new people announced Wednesday is Sponsor Services Director Ken Burris, who has joined Andersen Promotions on a full-time basis. He will manage sponsor relations for all three levels. Recent race title sponsors and partners for the USF2000 and Pro Mazda series have included Allied Building Products, Peninsula Pipeline, Analytic Systems and USANA Health Sciences’ Rev3 Energy, the Official Energy Drink of USF2000.

Further chassis, tire, partner and staff announcements should follow within the next few months. With these elements announced so soon after the Indy Lights management change was confirmed, it shows an enhanced effort by Andersen to really pump some support into the series.

Schmidt Peterson confirms all-Canadian lineup of Hinchcliffe, Wickens

Photo: IndyCar
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The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team is going for a diet of denim, maple syrup, pace and politeness in its 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series lineup, with an all-Canadian pairing of James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens confirmed for next season.

Hinchcliffe was known to want a driver of Wickens’ caliber alongside him in the second seat after three less-than-fruitful seasons with James Jakes (2015), Mikhail Aleshin (2016) and a combination of drivers (Aleshin, Sebastian Saavedra, Jack Harvey) rotated through the second car the last three years.

Recent changes have brought them to this point and now leads them to becoming full-time teammates for the first time in a decade, since the defunct country-focused A1 Grand Prix series in 2007-2008.

Hinchcliffe has re-signed with Schmidt Peterson after three seasons with the team. His first was shortened due to his near life-threatening injuries sustained in an accident in practice for that year’s Indianapolis 500. A rapid and welcome recovery followed throughout the second half of 2015 before his comeback to action in 2016, with an Indianapolis 500 pole and a couple near-misses on wins that followed. In 2017, he won Round 2 at Long Beach but faltered in the second half of the year through a litany of mechanical woes and bad luck.

Wickens, meanwhile, faced an uncertain future when Mercedes-Benz announced earlier this year it would withdraw from DTM at the end of 2018. One of Hinchcliffe’s long-time friends, Wickens hasn’t raced full-time in North America in more than a decade since they were both in Formula Atlantic in 2007, at separate teams (Wickens at Red Bull Forsythe Racing and Hinchcliffe at Sierra Sierra Enterprises). As he pursued his Formula 1 dream and had a wealth of success in the junior series, he never got a proper shot, and has since gone onto several successful years with Mercedes in DTM.

A ride-swap between the two of them came together earlier this year where Wickens sampled Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda at Sebring’s short course, while Hinchcliffe then flew to Italy to sample Wickens’ Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM after the St. Petersburg season opener. Hinchcliffe ended 13th in points in IndyCar, Wickens ninth in DTM this year, both with one win each during the year. Wickens also had a Friday to sample the No. 7 Lucas Oil SPM Honda at Road America this year, but had to relinquish the seat once Aleshin returned from a visa issue.

“Not only am I really excited to be able to say I’ll be back with SPM for next year and beyond, but I am also really looking forward to being teammates with one of my oldest friends,” said Hinchcliffe.

“Robbie and I grew up racing against one another, eventually took different paths, me staying in North America in open-wheel cars and him going off to Europe in sports cars, but it’s pretty neat that we both ended up here and we get to live our dream of being professional racing drivers, together on the same team.

“I think 2018 is going to be a great year for the SPM organization, from having Robbie here to the team’s new partnership with Honda and the 2018 aero kit; I just can’t wait to get back on track and bring some good results home for the Arrow Electronics crew.”

Wickens added: “This is an entirely new chapter to add to my racing career, and I am really excited for this opportunity that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has given me.

“I think everyone knows the story by now that James and I grew up racing against one another in go karts, and to make it to the largest open-wheel racing series in North America together as teammates, it’s crazy to think about.

“I am very thankful for the six years I had with everyone at Mercedes and DTM; those are memories I will cherish forever. I can’t wait to truly see what the Verizon IndyCar Series is all about!”