Getty Images

F1 driver Marcus Ericsson to move to IndyCar, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for 2019

Leave a comment

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports on Tuesday announced it has signed Formula One driver Marcus Ericsson to compete full-time in the IndyCar Series in 2019.

Following the remaining two races on the 2018 F1 schedule, the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 team driver will shift focus to pilot the No. 7 Honda for SPM next season, teaming with James Hinchcliffe and Jack Harvey (who competes part-time for Meyer Shank Racing with SPM).

“It’s a great honor to be picked as one of the drivers at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and IndyCar for the 2019 season,” Ericsson said in a SPM media release. “It feels like a perfect step for me and my career after five years in F1.

“I can’t wait to start work with SPM and all the people in the team, which I’ve heard a lot of good things about. They’ve had some great success over the years and I’m looking forward to work hard to continue and improve on that path.

“The racing in IndyCar looks great and I feel really excited to be part of it in the future. It will be a lot to learn including new tracks, oval racing, etc. I know it won’t be easy, but it’s a challenge I’m very much looking forward to and I can’t wait to get started.”

SPM has agreed to allow Ericsson to remain as a reserve driver on the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 team’s lineup due to his long-time relationship with the team.

A SPM team spokesperson told NBC Sports that while Ericsson’s priority will be IndyCar, he would be available for Alfa Romeo Sauber in instances where there would not be a conflict with an IndyCar race, etc.

Alexander Rossi had a similar deal with Andretti Autosport in 2016, where he was also listed as a reserve driver for F1 team Manor Racing, but never drove for the latter team that season.

Ericsson, a 28-year-old native of Kumla, Sweden, is coming off a ninth-place finish this past Sunday in the Mexican Grand Prix, tying his second-best single-race career showing in F1.

Ericsson has 95 career starts in five seasons of Formula One competition. He’s on track to finish a career-best 17th this season.

Prior to his F1 tenure, Ericsson was a two-time champion in Formula BMW UK in 2007, captured the Japanese Formula Three title in 2009, and also competed in the British Formula Three, GP2 Asia and GP2 series.

Team co-owner Sam Schmidt said of Ericsson, “He has a ton of experience racing in the top levels of motorsports, so we believe that he will be able to contribute to our development program that began in earnest in 2018.

“While the circuits on the IndyCar schedule will be brand new to him, particularly the ovals, we have a lot of confidence and trust in his eagerness to learn, along with his work ethic. We think he and (Hinchcliffe) will be a good fit to push one another and fight for those wins.”

The team also announced that the No. 6 Honda “remains open” for the return of 2018 IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Robert Wickens.

Wickens revealed late last week that he has been rendered a paraplegic, paralyzed from the chest down, from injuries sustained in a horrific crash August 19 during the ABC Supply 500 IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway.

Wickens, currently receiving treatment and physical therapy in a rehabilitation facility, said in a tweet that he remains optimistic he will one day walk again.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Don’t know the Rolex 24? You should. Here’s why.

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Hello, America. It’s time to go racing again.

Yes, Supercross is now three weeks into its season, and the Chili Bowl Nationals is now effectively the Christopher Bell Invitational after the young NASCAR star won his 3rd consecutive Golden Driller last weekend.

But the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway is the first marquee event on the American racing calendar – an event that just happens to have international prestige.

It’s also the start of Daytona Speedweeks, which culminates with NASCAR’s Daytona 500 on Feb. 17. But this is no mere opening act just warming up the crowd for the headliner.

In case you’re new to this event, here are a few reasons why it stands out:

Twice around the clock: Are you the kind of person that appreciates a challenge? Well, challenges don’t get much bigger in motorsports than a 24-hour endurance race where drivers, crews, machines, and strategies must work together flawlessly. For those behind the wheel in the Rolex 24, the obstacles are numerous: Punishing G-forces, extreme mental focus, lack of sleep, and staying on top of hydration and nutrition.

Star power: Speaking of those behind the wheel, the Rolex 24 traditionally draws top drivers from other disciplines such as IndyCar, Formula 1 and NASCAR to join sports car regulars from North America and around the world. As a result, the winners’ list is a Who’s Who of Motorsports.

This year’s field includes a clutch of NTT IndyCar Series drivers, highlighted by 5-time series champion and past Rolex 24 winner Scott Dixon. But pre-race buzz has centered on two particular interlopers: Alex Zanardi, the former CART champion making his first North American start since losing his legs in a 2001 crash, and Fernando Alonso, the two-time F1 champion looking to add another endurance triumph alongside his win with Toyota in last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Cool cars: If you’re a gearhead, the Rolex 24 is a 200-mile-per-hour candy store. Across the four separate classes of competition, 13 of the world’s premier car manufacturers are represented.

The majority of those manufacturers are found in the Grand Touring classes that feature vehicles based on road-going production models. Chevy and Ford’s eternal rivalry rages on in the factory-backed GT Le Mans, but the class also boasts efforts from BMW, Porsche, and Ferrari. It’s even more diverse in the pro-am GT Daytona, where Porsche is joined by Audi, Lamborghini, Lexus and Mercedes.

As for the exotic, purpose-built Daytona Prototypes, they are powered by engines from Cadillac, Acura, Mazda and Nissan.

Nifty fifty: This year’s Rolex 24 begins the 50th anniversary season for IMSA, the sanctioning body for North American sports car racing. A select group of teams will mark the occasion at the Rolex 24 by running historic IMSA paint schemes on their machines. You may not be familiar with these looks, but it’s worth discovering the history behind them.

Here’s an example. The Starworks Motorsports team (GT Daytona) will carry a scheme based on Audi of America’s 90 Quattro from the 1989 IMSA GTO season. Boasting sports car legends Hurley Haywood and Hans-Joachim Stuck in the driver lineup, the 90 Quattro captured 7 GTO wins that season.

Audi’s performance led one competitor to create a “no passing” sticker with Stuck’s face on it. Stuck’s response: A doll fixed to his car’s rear window that dropped its pants to moon anyone Stuck put behind him.

Status symbol: Last but not least, the Rolex 24 has a unique prize – a trophy you can wear.

Winners get a standard cup, but what they’re really after are the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona watches, which include a special engraving to commemorate their victory. A standard version of this watch retails for tens of thousands of dollars, but you can’t put a price on the ones awarded at the Rolex 24.

This year’s grand marshal, 5-time Rolex 24 winner Scott Pruett, sums it up as “the ultimate reward.”

“To be presented a watch engraved with the word ‘Winner’ after 24 hours of intense racing is a moment that lives with you forever,” he added. “Your Rolex is a constant reminder of the perseverance and hard work that goes into succeeding at the highest level.”