Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

Photo: IndyCar

New 2018 IndyCar aero kit makes its formal test debut at IMS

2 Comments

After months of buildup and following Monday’s reveal, Tuesday marked the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit’s official debut on track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

INDYCAR’s release, with a handful of social media posts embedded, is below:

If the first day of on-track testing is any indication, the new Verizon IndyCar Series car is well on its way to making Indy car racing in 2018 even better.

Juan Pablo Montoya and Oriol Servia turned more than 100 laps each on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval in their respective Chevrolet- and Honda-powered Dallara IR-12s equipped with the universal aerodynamic bodywork kit making its public debut ahead of being used by all competitors next season.

Afterward, approval of the new car’s bolder, sleeker look and performance was unanimous from everyone involved. Buy-in from the two test drivers – among the most veteran and respected around – was essential and secured from the outset.

“From Lap 1, it just felt at home,” said the 43-year-old Servia, who has driven Indy cars since 2000. “The car felt great. I was flat on it out of the pits, which just says how good the car felt right away.

“I think it’s going to be a fast, good racer.”

INDYCAR, sanctioning body for the Verizon IndyCar Series, announced in April 2016 its intent to move away from aero kit competition to a universally supplied kit in 2018. Dallara, a series chassis supplier since 1997, was named to produce and supply the universal kit.

“It’s exciting because, for the first time in the car, it drives really, really well,” said Montoya, 41 and a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner. “I think they addressed a lot of the things and the car looks great. I think having one aero kit for everybody is great for the sport. The car looks good and it drives really good.”

Montoya’s car was prepared by Team Penske and Servia’s by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, though INDYCAR is retaining control of the cars until testing is complete in late September. INDYCAR officials watched with nervous excitement as the two cars took to the track for the first time shortly after 9 a.m. ET and methodically worked through the test checklist. By 5 p.m., the checklist had been completed and a potential second day of testing Wednesday was deemed unnecessary.

“We were pleased,” said Bill Pappas, INDYCAR’s vice president of competition/race engineering who headed up the technical development of the universal kit. “It matched up with our numbers that we predicted in the wind tunnel and CFD (computational fluid dynamics), so we were very happy for that.”

Pappas said the test list included short runs by each car to “ensure that there weren’t any surprises,” followed by longer runs on the 2.5-mile oval to check for durability issues. Everyone at INDYCAR and Dallara felt confident the test would be a success, but there are never givens in racing.

“This is my first experience being part of a car being designed,” Pappas said. “Obviously, Dallara did a great job helping us, but you hold your breath until the first competitive laps are run.”

Love this place. @indianapolismotorspeedway is sooo much fun in an @indycar @teamchevy @team_penske @fitzgeraldgliderkits

A post shared by Juan Pablo Montoya (@jpmonty2) on

Old Boys. @indycar #2018 #shapingthefuture #future #racing #indy500

A post shared by Oriol Servia (@oriolservia) on

Mission accomplished, at least for the first phase of testing. Additional tests for the two cars are scheduled for Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Aug. 1), Iowa Speedway (Aug. 10) and Sebring International Raceway (Sept. 26). But the fact that this opening test was completed in half the allotted time is reason to celebrate, if only for a short time.

“Everything we had planned to do in two days, we already accomplished in the first day,” Servia said. “We did lots of laps, long runs, and the car feels good. The car feels very benign.

“It just feels right and we’re not having any issues or moments out there. Very consistent. My second long run, I think, was one of my most consistent runs I’ve done at this track in all of my years.”

The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season resumes this weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. Live race coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET Sunday on CNBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, with an encore telecast at 7 p.m. on NBCSN.

Saavedra raises stock with fighting run to P11 in one-off with SPM

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

Likable Colombian Sebastian Saavedra made what felt like an eighth different comeback to the Verizon IndyCar Series this weekend – he’s had more comebacks than Cher and he’s only 27 years old.

And for the second time in as many opportunities this year, with a second different team, manufacturer, aero kit and type of course, Saavedra did exactly what he needed to raise his stock for a more permanent return to the series.

Saavedra was announced under cloudy circumstances for the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ No. 7 Lucas Oil SPM Honda entry this weekend, as the team wouldn’t elaborate at first on Mikhail Aleshin’s absence.

But reports emerged over the weekend that this appears likely to be just a one-race sit down for the Russian, not a permanent replacement. Aleshin was on site at the weekend and still posting photos to social media with the team, which one doesn’t do if they’re to be let go.

Alas, for Saavedra, he faced a challenging situation regardless of Aleshin’s circumstances. He hadn’t driven on a street course in two years and the Toronto he last drove, in 2015, was a different circuit compared to the one he did this weekend. With the pit lane side swap and additional circuit changes, including new paving and other elements, it was always going to be a tough mountain to climb despite Saavedra’s parts of seven years and 60-plus starts in IndyCar.

Plus, compared to Indianapolis where there is a week of practice before qualifying – 30 hours – Saavedra would only have a pair of 45-minute practice sessions on Friday and then a further 45-minute one Saturday morning before qualifying.

Photo: IndyCar

Understandably, Saavedra was a bit off pace to start the weekend but he did nothing but improve from there. He was 2.8 seconds off P1 in first practice, and 2.1 down on teammate James Hinchcliffe, but those gaps dropped from there to 1.8 and 0.6 (second practice), 0.8 and 0.4 (third practice) and 1.0 and 0.6 (qualifying) respectively. His fastest race lap was only two tenths off Hinchcliffe, good for 15th.

In the race, from 20th on the grid, Saavedra was always likely to go off sequence and was among those who caught a break by the timing of the Lap 23 yellow. He’d pitted before the yellow and then leapfrogged into the top-10 following that caution when those who hadn’t pitted made their first visit to the pits.

Saavedra could have dropped back from there but didn’t, instead scrapping and fighting to hang onto a top-10 spot, which was always going to be an excellent result given the circumstances this weekend. He ran as high as seventh, matching his car number for the weekend.

Although he fell behind Graham Rahal and Scott Dixon in the final stages, 11th was still a very solid result for him to cap off the weekend.

“I feel like that is a very successful weekend in the books,” he reflected after the race. “I’m very appreciative of the whole Schmidt Peterson Motorsports organization for taking me in and just making me feel like I’m home.

“I felt the same throughout the race and had a pretty solid car. We kept clean for the first stint, just tried to stay away from trouble, and when I started pushing, the car was there for me. Great strategy from the SPM guys and getting me out of those reds [Firestone alternate tires] and getting me some free time for me to do my thing.

“It played off perfectly with those yellows, and we managed to get in with the guys up front which changed the speed of the race for us. We had the car to do it. We’re proud of the pit stops, proud of the strategy and of course having a good car makes my life as a driver a lot easier.”

Saavedra adds SPM to a list of teams he’s driven for since 2010 that also includes Bryan Herta Autosport, Conquest Racing, Andretti Autosport, Dragon Racing, KV Racing Technology, Chip Ganassi Racing and Juncos Racing. Most have come in partnership with his longtime supporter Gary Peterson of Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc. (AFS), and the AFS signage was present on the red and black No. 7 car this weekend.

Peterson told the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network’s Dave Furst during the weekend that “sometimes I feel like a pimp” in trying to make opportunities happen for both himself and Saavedra.

But given how well Saavedra’s done in tough jump-in circumstances this year – at Juncos in the team’s IndyCar debut at the Indianapolis 500 when he drove well from 31st to 15th and now with SPM in this abnormal one-off drive, coming from 20th to 11th – he’s provided two glimpses at his potential as he looks to return on a more regular basis.

Hinchcliffe podium anchors strong runs for Canadian drivers in Toronto

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe has endured a tough run of races since his win at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. In the nine races since then, he has only had three finishes inside the top 10, with two crashes (Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway) and an engine failure (Detroit Race 2) featured in that stretch, in a season that became somewhat defined by bad luck.

However, the Honda Indy Toronto brought about a welcome change, with Hinchcliffe qualifying sixth and then catching a lucky break when he pitted right before a caution flew for Tony Kanaan nosing into the turn 1 tire barriers.

From there, Hinchcliffe cycled back into the top five, where he stayed for the rest of the race to finish third, his second consecutive podium finish in his home race.

James Hinchcliffe has scored back-to-back podiums in Toronto. Photo: IndyCar

“The yellow just came at the right time but we had the pace at the end there,” Hinchcliffe told NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis afterward. “We were catching Alex and Josef in that last stint. The car really came alive on the blacks so big thanks to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, all the guys – great stops — and all the fans in Toronto. I mean the support that we feel each and every year is amazing. You guys are the best! You came even when the weather wasn’t looking awesome and hung out with us and we appreciate it. So thanks to all of you guys. Next year, maybe a couple of spots better.”

What’s more, Hinchcliffe’s podium completes a strong weekend for Canadian drivers across the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.

Red Deer, Alberta native Parker Thompson won both races in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda for a Canadian team, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based Exclusive Autosport, while Montreal, Quebec native Zachary Claman de Melo finished second and third in his outings in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.

Combined, the results of Hinchcliffe, Thompson, and Claman de Melo made it five podiums in five open-wheel races at Toronto, with a Canadian driver on the podium in every race.

“It’s great to get two podiums here in Toronto,” said Claman de Melo following his third-place finish in Race 2. “I’ve raced karts here since I was 8 years old and it’s like my second home. I’ve hit my rhythm, so things are starting to really come together for us now. The speed has always been there but we’re qualifying toward the front now, which makes the racing a lot easier.”

Thompson, meanwhile, was beyond elated to sweep both races in USF2000. “I’m surprised I still have a voice! What a feeling, to get two in ‘TO’ in front of the Canadian fans! I’d say this is unbelievable, but it’s passed that now and into its own new realm,” he revealed in Victory Lane.

For Hinchcliffe, the third-place finish puts him back in the top 10 in the championship, two points ahead of 11th-place Max Chilton.

Follow Kyle Lavigne.

INDYCAR confirms JPM, Servia, Penske, SPM for aero kit tests

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

INDYCAR has confirmed Juan Pablo Montoya and Oriol Servia as test drivers and Team Penske (Chevrolet) and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (Honda) to provide cars for the new Dallara 2018 universal aero kit testing.

The first on-track test is scheduled for July 25 and 26 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, before the first road course test at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course that comes following the Honda Indy 200 later this month.

INDYCAR’s full release is below.

Veteran Indy car drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Oriol Servia have been named by INDYCAR to perform testing duties for the Dallara universal aero kit to be used by all Verizon IndyCar Series teams starting in the 2018 season.

Testing of the universal kit, which will be fitted to the current Dallara IR-12 chassis used by all teams, begins July 25-26 on the 2.5-mile oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Subsequent tests will take place on the permanent road course at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the short oval at Iowa Speedway and a street-course simulation at Sebring International Raceway.

The two test cars will represent the engine manufacturers currently competing in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Team Penske will provide the Chevrolet-powered Dallara chassis to be driven by Montoya. Servia will drive a Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara with a Honda engine.

While the teams are providing crews to service the cars, the testing regimen will be supervised by INDYCAR, sanctioning organization for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“If we can help in any small measure to have a great product in 2018, I’ll be honored,” said Servia, who has raced Indy cars since 2000 and reached his milestone 200th career start at the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in May.

“It’s great that INDYCAR is doing it to make sure we have good racing. We want to help them accomplish what they want to accomplish.”

The 2018 universal aero kit marks the beginning of a new era. Dallara was named last month to manufacture the kit following a yearlong process at INDYCAR to establish the parameters for a sleeker, bolder bodywork kit whose look is inspired by past favorite chassis that competed in Indy car racing.

Chevrolet and Honda have been supplying aero kits to their contracted teams since 2015, but that will cease at the end of this season. The new universal kit is expected to be more cost-effective, with the intent to draw additional engine manufacturers to the Verizon IndyCar Series since they no longer need to supply aero kits as well.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 27: Juan Pablo Montoya of Columbia, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet prepares to practice on Carb Day ahead of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

“I think they did a really good job with it,” said Montoya, the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner who counts 15 race wins and the 1999 CART championship among his motorsports accomplishments. “I think going back to one aero kit for both (engine) manufacturers is good for the sport. … It opens the door to other companies to get interested in INDYCAR again.”

INDYCAR will maintain control of the test chassis and data, so as not to provide either test team a competitive advantage for the 2018 season. Data and results will be distributed to all teams once testing is complete.

The universal kit contains additional safety enhancements and is intended to deliver even greater on-track racing since most of the aerodynamic downforce will be generated from underneath the car. That will create less air turbulence for trailing cars, allowing for more overtaking opportunities.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 26: Oriol Servia of Spain, driver of the#16 Manitowoc Honda prepares to drive during Carb day for the 101st Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 26, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Another component of the universal kit’s design is a weight redistribution to improve the car’s handling and balance.

“The new car will have more weight on the front,” said Tino Belli, INDYCAR’s director of aerodynamic development. “We’ve removed the (rear) wheel guards and the beam wing, which obviously is quite a bit of weight far back on the car. We’ve introduced side-impact structures beside the driver and moved the radiators forward a bit. We’re anticipating having about 1.6 percent more weight on the front axle, so that could require a small amount of front downforce.”

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway test will mark the public debut of the new car look. Computer-generated images of the universal kit were initially released in January and followed up with more detailed images in May. The response from Verizon IndyCar Series drivers has been overwhelmingly positive, as were the responses of Servia and Montoya to the invitation to be the first to test it.

“To be chosen as one of the guys to test it is exciting,” Montoya said. “It works out really well. Since I’m not running full-time this year, it was a good fit.”

As with the current kits, the universal kit will come in two specifications: one for superspeedways and the other for road courses, street circuits and short ovals. Testing at all venues will be used to confirm the baseline standards for the package, starting with the superspeedway kit at Indianapolis.

“Once we’re sure the car is in the right window, we’ll move on to reliability testing,” Belli said. “We’ll put the car back to a race-level of downforce, fill it up with fuel and check that we don’t have issues with the exhaust heating the bodywork too much and establish the cooling levels for each engine.

“We’re not really trying to go a certain speed and we’re not trying to check how the car handles in traffic,” emphasized Belli. “Those things won’t be established until we’re able to work ‘in anger’ next year, but we just want to make sure that we haven’t missed on our aero targets specifically.”

After IMS, the rest of the test schedule is set for Aug. 1 at Mid-Ohio, Aug. 10 at Iowa and Sept. 26 at Sebring.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports names new team president

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has a new team president in former JMI executive Jon Flack. The team release with more information is below.

Flack will make his team debut this weekend. James Hinchcliffe is in his usual No. 5 car while Sebastian Saavedra takes over in the No. 7 car.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) announced today an addition to its executive team in Jon Flack. The former Global COO and President, Americas of Just Marketing International (JMI) joins the Indianapolis-based team as the President of SPM.

Jon Flack, an Indiana University graduate, has over 20 years of experience in motorsports marketing including brand strategy, research & measurement, planning, PR & digital, account management and event & experiential marketing. During his 15-year tenure at JMI, Flack oversaw day-to-day operations, annual and long-term planning as well as financial allocations across the business. He has worked with brands Crown Royal, UPS, Verizon, Subway Restaurants, Hisense, AMD, Qualcomm and many others. The Indiana resident has been involved with multiple motorsport series including Formula One, Formula E, NASCAR, IMSA, the Verizon IndyCar Series and NHRA.

As the President of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Flack will oversee the commercial side of the company which has grown considerably through partnerships with Lucas Oil, Arrow Electronics, Microsemi, Cypress Semiconductor and others in the technology sector.

“The addition of Jon to the SPM team is the next logical step in creating an organization capable of winning championships while being industry leaders in the off-track experience for our partners,” co-owner Sam Schmidt stated. “He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge of all forms of motorsports which will be tremendously beneficial to our growth. We are excited to have him on board.”

Flack commented, “I’m extremely honored to be joining Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. I’ve watched with interest the past 16 years as SPM have built the organization one step at a time, and I’m thrilled to support the next chapter of the company’s growth and diversification. My Indiana roots run deep so the opportunity to combine my passion for IndyCar with my marketing expertise was simply too good to pass up.”

Flack will make his first trip with the team for this weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto held just 20 minutes outside of the hometown of SPM driver and fan favorite James Hinchcliffe.