Carlin confirms Indy Lights entry, which provides series a huge shot in the arm

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Trevor Carlin’s powerhouse organization will add a U.S. program in 2015, with a new entry into the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship.

Racing director Carlin noted this will be the realization of the team’s U.S. long-term ambitions.

“We’re extremely excited to be taking the Carlin team to the U.S. and embarking on this new challenge into the Indy Lights series,” he said in a release. “We’ve had one eye on the U.S. for some time now and the time is right to widen our focus. We’re seeing more and more drivers look across the Atlantic from categories such as Formula 3 and GP2 Series to careers in Indy Lights and IndyCar and it makes sense as a European team to offer that route to our customers.

“While we remain completely focused on our race programs in Europe, it is also important to take on new challenges and projects that maintain our momentum as a company of people,” he added. “By offering new opportunities we are able to offer strong team members new goals and challenges internally and retain them within Carlin. By no means do we underestimate the challenge ahead but we believe we have a great team of people to help us be competitive in Indy Lights. We see this as an important new chapter for Carlin and the entire team are excited for the future.”

The team’s operations will be based in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. and feature both U.K. and U.S. personnel.

A MAJOR GET FOR INDYCAR/INDY LIGHTS

To put Carlin’s place in the European junior formula ladder into proper American stick-and-ball perspective, a comparable example would be Alabama football. Nick Saban’s team contends for national championships every year, and has produced a gluttony of current National Football League stars.

Or to put Carlin’s place in perspective on the American racing scale, it’s the competitive European equivalent of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Indy Lights program – which has won a half dozen championships and promoted more than that number of drivers into IndyCar over the last decade.

The Farnham, Surrey-based team has previously worked with drivers such as Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Riccardo and Nico Rosberg, as well as 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Will Power, Charlie Kimball, Josef Newgarden, Takuma Sato, Mikhail Aleshin, Graham Rahal and Carlos Huertas in the junior stages of their careers.

That level of talent already has come through Carlin’s doors. The driver or drivers who get the next opportunity will be welcomed into a world-class, championship-winning operation and vault to instant title contender status.

More notable even than the talent who have already driven for Carlin is the fact Carlin himself sees the value in North American racing, and the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system. Because if there’s one thing that IndyCar and Indy Lights racing has lacked in the last decade or so, it’s new blood in terms of teams.

There has not been a new full-season IndyCar team since Ed Carpenter launched his eponymous Ed Carpenter Racing in 2012. The previous two new teams before that were two other drivers branching out into team ownership, in Bryan Herta (2010) and Sarah Fisher (2008). Because it makes sense to have economies of scale, Fisher’s and Carpenter’s teams have now merged.

The lack of new blood in Indy Lights has been even greater. Until this new year with the new Dallara IL15 chassis, Schmidt Peterson, Andretti Autosport, Belardi Auto Racing and Team Moore Racing were the only four teams even keeping the series afloat on a full-time basis. New teams? About as rare as rain in a desert.

That Carlin sees the European junior open-wheel formula in transition, and with the American ladder so much more clearly defined – and, on the whole, cheaper – is nothing but a positive for IndyCar, Indy Lights and the Mazda Road to Indy on the whole.

This is one of the biggest pieces of news for IndyCar this offseason, and should be treated as such. Meanwhile Carlin’s team deserves massive thanks, and a warm welcome to these shores.