Chilton mulling 2016 options ahead of Le Mans debut with Nissan

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LE MANS, France – The one 2014 Formula 1 driver who did make it onto Nissan’s new LMP1 program, Max Chilton, stands at something of a career crossroads heading into this weekend’s 2015 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is nearly the same place he was at the start of the year.

Chilton, the former Marussia F1 driver, has since moved onto a dual program this season with the debuting Nissan GT-R LM NISMO and the new Dallara IL15-Mazda with Carlin in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, although the latter was only meant to be a one-weekend program that has since grown.

So for 2016, he has no set plans and because he likes both, is a bit torn on where to go next.

“It depends what comes along, the best offer, to be honest. I like both. I haven’t made my mind up,” he told MotorSportsTalk.

It’s an interesting time for Chilton, who’s only 24 but has two years F1 experience banked, has done adequately well in Indy Lights and looks ahead to his Le Mans debut this weekend in Nissan’s first race with its new car.

“The most tiring thing is the travel,” Chilton said. “Yes so is F1, but it’s only a maximum of two weeks at a time. I’m sometimes to the States for a day and then back. I only did a couple trips originally, and every one I did was tied in with a test or seat fit. It’s made it slightly easier. But it’s been a very busy four months.”

The dual program has not gone exactly as planned. He has settled into Indy Lights and podiumed, but Chilton meant to focus more on the Nissan program from the start.

The program’s delays and additional testing done in place of its originally scheduled race debut at Silverstone has thrown everything a loop.

“Mixing the two projects isn’t fully working,” he admitted. “This [Nissan] is my main focus.

“I was only planning to do one race in Indy Lights, but it’s nice to be helping the team out.

“I believe you sort of make your own luck. It’s good we’ve had a couple podiums in the last couple meetings, and I’ve definitely shown my pace. But I’m in a weird stage at the moment, figuring out whether I want to do IndyCar.

“I’ll try to carry [Indy Lights] on as long as I can, but it might not be the whole year,” he added.

Indeed Chilton will miss Toronto this weekend – Carlin named Nelson Piquet Jr. as his replacement on Monday – and figure Chilton could return as early as Milwaukee on June 12, which is the next Indy Lights race after Toronto.

If he does return for that, he’d have a chance to make his actual first oval start after being sidelined before the green flag at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It was a leak in the fuel cell. In my career I’ve had it like once. It’s pretty rare,” he said. “It was very frustrating. They gave us the parts to fix it, and it still didn’t fix it. It’s a bit of a design fault with the fuel cell.”

We’ll see where Chilton goes next after he takes the green in the flagship No. 23 Nissan with Olivier Pla and Jann Mardenborough on Saturday.

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.