Although only one rookie, Ed Jones, is set to graduate into the Verizon IndyCar Series for 2017, another may make his debut at some point this year. Luis Michael Dorrbecker, a 24-year-old Mexican who also has German heritage, will make his IndyCar test debut with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports on March 1 at Sebring International Raceway’s short course.
Dorrbecker won the 2016 Auto GP open-wheel championship with 10 race victories. He’s also raced in F3 and Formula Renault 2000 internationally and prior to that, had a brief stint in Skip Barber race competition in the U.S. in 2010. He won once in six starts.
He made his first visit to an official IndyCar event at this past weekend’s Prix View test at Phoenix International Raceway. NBC Sports caught up with Dorrbecker to gauge his reaction to the oval test and go over his preparation for his IndyCar test debut at Sebring.
MotorSportsTalk: So you’ve never been to an oval before. What are your instant reactions?
Luis Michael Dorrbecker: “It feels amazing. I watched every corner. You get the feeling these cars have a lot of grip. These cars seem very fun to watch. I’m so excited to get in at Sebring, and maybe be able to race on an oval.”
MST: What’s your first reaction to meeting Sam Schmidt and the rest of the SPM organization?
LMD: “I was actually talking to people that came with me. You don’t feel like an outsider. You feel at home from the word go. It’s a very pleasant experience. Anyone that’s met Sam knows he’s a very unique person with the way he approaches his racing and racing team. He has people with the same philosophy. It makes that ambiance in the team very family-like. It’ll be a real pleasure to work with.”
MST: Have you done any Sebring simulation or other key prep work?
LMD: “No. We fly back to Indianapolis so I can do the seat fitting and everything. I’ll get some time in the sim. I’ve raced there in Skip Barber! So I remember how the track was. But it’ll be different in these cars. From the data I’ve seen, it’s more like a street course than a road course. The team has a couple cars available and all of them should be the same!”
MST: In recent years, Mexico’s racing involvement has had a bit of a resurgence. What has that been like for you to witness?
LMD: “In Mexico, we’re very passionate about our sports. We’re national people with a lot of national pride. Other people kind of embrace it. We have a history of loving racing and in the last few years, we didn’t really have anyone to root for.
“When I was a kid, my generation grew up watching Adrian Fernandez in CART, Champ Car and IndyCar. I remember back then they’d fill the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez with 120,000 for the Champ Car races! The whole motorsports world in Mexico needs an IndyCar driver again. It’s been since 2004 I think (Note: Fernandez and Michel Jourdain Jr. raced their last full seasons in 2004; Mario Dominguez ran most of 2008 while Jourdain’s 2012 Indianapolis 500 start is the last time a Mexican driver started an IndyCar race – Ed.).
“So it’s been a long time coming. I hope to be the first one back. Once IndyCar has another Mexican driver, it’ll only be a matter of months to sort something to bring the series back to Mexico.”
MST: Provided the test goes well, are you targeting the month of May or a later program of several races?
LMD: “We obviously have the month of May (in Indianapolis) as the biggest race in the season. Commercially, it’s very big to get sponsorship.
“But we’d hope to do more than one race at the end of the season. It depends how the test goes. Our goal is for 2018 to race the whole championship.”