As the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg approaches, IndyCar teams have begun finalizing its line-ups for the now 17-round series. Mike Conway is the latest driver to sign on the dotted line, inking a deal with Dreyer & Reinbold to drive one of its Dallara Hondas.
The 25-year-old Englishman will be making his debut on American soil after spending the majority of his career climbing the open-wheel ranks in Europe. Conway, the 2006 British Formula 3 Champion, moved into the GP2 Series the following year, finishing 14th in the drivers' championship. In 2008, he scored a win on the streets on Monaco, en route to a 12th place finish in the final standings. Now, it's on to an even larger challenge for 2009.
"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to race in the U.S. with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in the IndyCar Series," Conway said. "I'll be visiting a lot of new tracks for the first time, especially oval tracks, but I'm very much looking forward to the challenge."
Conway, who has served as a Honda F1 Racing test driver for the past two seasons, got his first taste of an IndyCar last summer, testing for Panther Racing at Infineon Raceway. Setting impressive lap times during the private test, Conway was rumored to be one of the drivers in line for a seat alongside Dan Wheldon at Panther, but the team has so far been unable to secure funding to field a second car.
"We're excited to get the things rolling in getting ready for the 2009 season," team co-owner Dennis Reinbold said. "We've made a lot of improvements in the off-season, and combined with Mike's talent, we're excited to see lots of positive results in this year's IndyCar Series events."
Buddy Rice, Milka Duno and Townsend Bell all drove for Dreyer & Reinbold in 2008, with Duno and Bell splitting driving duties of the second entry. It's expected the team will continue fielding two cars, but it's unclear who will be Conway's teammate.
Conway, along with fellow rookies Raphael Matos and Stanton Barrett, are expected to take part in a private rookie test before the IndyCar Series open-test at Homestead Miami Speedway on Feb. 25-26. There, Conway will be christened with his first laps on an oval.
In other testing-related news, series officials have announced that teams will be permitted six private test days in 2009, under certain stipulations. Each full-season team enrolled in the TEAM (Team Enhancement and Allocation Matrix) program will be allowed 800 miles or six days of testing, and 18 sets of tires. Teams with two entries may test for 1,200 miles along with 26 sets of tires. Any entrants with additional teams will gain 200 miles and four sets of tires per car.
Additionally, IndyCar teams that use the services of an Indy Lights driver during a test can receive 100 bonus miles. Rookies in the series will be allocated 400 additional miles and eight more sets of tires equaling three extra days of testing.