Claman De Melo confirmed for IndyCar debut with RLL at Sonoma

Photo: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
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Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires veteran Zachary Claman De Melo will make his Verizon IndyCar Series debut with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing next weekend at Sonoma, in the team’s No. 16 Paysafe Honda.

The confirmation Wednesday morning follows reports at this weekend’s race in Watkins Glen that the teenager out of Montreal was close to finalizing a deal. Claman De Melo spent some time in the RLL pits during the weekend.

Claman De Melo was perhaps the most improved driver in this year’s Indy Lights season, jumping from ninth to fifth in points and banking his first win at Road America with the Carlin team.

He also tested there with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in an IndyCar earlier this year, and despite limited running owing to an afternoon engine failure, his speed wasn’t in doubt.

This will mark the third weekend RLL Racing will run its second car this year, as Oriol Servia was in the car for the Indianapolis 500 and Detroit the following week.

Claman De Melo is one of several drivers from Indy Lights who is making noise about stepping up to IndyCar sooner rather than later, and he’ll have a leg up on several of his competitors with one race now under his belt.

“I’m thrilled to be driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for my IndyCar Series debut at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma,” he said. “This opportunity marks an incredible moment for my career and for Canadian motorsport fans, as I’m getting that much closer to securing a full-time position with RLLR for next season.

“I want to extend a big thank you to my primary partner, Paysafe, for making a dream come true today and to Bobby Rahal for the incredible level of support he has provided towards getting me in the #16 Honda this season. It is an honor to drive for RLLR and I look forward to big things ahead.”

Bobby Rahal, team co-owner, added: “We’re pleased that Zach has chosen Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing to make his series debut. Zach had a very good year in the Indy Lights Series and we think that he has the ability to perform well in the IndyCar Series.

“We closely watched his performance at the recent Indy car test at Road America where he was the quickest of the rookies testing and we are confident that he can do a good, solid job for both himself and the team at Sonoma.  Our goals for Zach are that he has a good, consistent race and gains experience, which is so important, and hopefully takes that experience to use as a stepping stone for 2018.”