Few drivers were exciting to watch as Mikhail Aleshin in the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series, with the Russian’s speed, bravery and bravado showing through at a number of events.
Aleshin didn’t get a chance to end his rookie season as planned though, with a devastating accident at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. in night practice.
He came back proving he’d lost none of the attributes he had on his scorecard in the 2015 season finale at Sonoma, in a third Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry. He out-qualified teammates Ryan Briscoe and James Jakes and finished 10th in the team’s No. 77 SMP Racing Dallara-Honda.
As Aleshin explained, the return to IndyCar – particularly ovals – is something he’s quite excited for.
“It all depends on your feeling about the series, about the team and about your place in the world, I would say,” Aleshin told MotorSportsTalk at this weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 test, where he’s co-driving the No. 37 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR01 Nissan.
“I really enjoyed this particular team and felt myself like I was back home. And from the physical and mental side, the work on the prototype we did all season, that helped me a lot. I learned a lot as well there.
“For me, I didn’t have any real issues to get back and be in the top-10 in IndyCar. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, but it was not harder than when I did it the first year, for sure.”
Aleshin’s bravado shown through most on the ovals in the No. 7 car. With Fontana his last oval memory prior to now Phoenix, which will be the first oval race in 2016, Aleshin is keen to recapture the spark.
“I don’t know why, but I like ovals even more than other tracks, for some reason,” he said. “Here (Daytona), you can’t call it an oval, I mean the configuration that we’re using here at Daytona, but still you take some parts of the oval and it’s a pretty nice feeling, I’ll tell you. I can’t wait to get back.”
He’s had one test already with James Hinchcliffe at Sebring, and the two have gelled well.
“We had a test in Sebring together. He’s a nice guy and I think he’s a good worker. He seems like an open guy and I’m sure we’re going to have some fun times this season,” he said.
Aleshin will share the SMP Racing BR01 Nissan at Daytona with Kirill Ladygin, Nicolas Minassian and Maurizio Mediani for the Rolex 24 at Daytona itself.
The car is a dark horse entry for the overall win, and Aleshin returns to the race for the first time since 2014, when he finished fourth in GT Daytona in an SMP Ferrari 458 Italia GT3.
Aleshin could also do the 24 Hours of Le Mans again, as it does not conflict with IndyCar’s schedule. However, he said that remains to be seen whether he’ll slot in somewhere within SMP’s sports car program.