Herta expects teaming with O’Ward will be “very enjoyable”
Young IndyCar aces and former Indy Lights teammates Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward are expecting to relish joining forces with each other and along with Devlin DeFrancesco and Eric Lux for the Rolex 24 Hours next month.
Less than a week after DragonSpeed announced Juan Pablo Montoya and Henrik Hedman as its drivers for the LMP2 class of the WeatherTech Sprint Cup – with Montoya’s son Sebastian joining them for the Sebring 12 Hours – Elton Julian’s team revealed that Herta, O’Ward, DeFrancesco and Lux will comprise the #81 Oreca’s line-up for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Herta, who raced for two years as Pato O’Ward’s teammate in Indy Lights before graduating to the IndyCar squad at the end of 2018, also faced the Mexican prodigy in karts.
He said: “I think it’s going to be very enjoyable. I’ve been racing against Pato for basically probably a decade. We were teammates at Andretti but still in a competitive environment so I think this is going to be really relaxed, it’s going to be fun to be really teammates with him and not be competing against him in any way.
“It is going to be a lot of fun, really cool to be at the racetrack as friends with Devlin and Pato and Eric and see how good we can do.”
O’Ward, who became an IndyCar winner this year with Arrow McLaren SP, echoed his rival’s comments, saying “It’s going to be really cool to join forces and honestly, just extract everything we can out of what we have. We can bring a lot to the table and I know Eric and Devlin have their own knowledge of very different things that Colton and I may not have so much knowledge of.
“So I think everybody will really come together to create a strong package to have a shot at it. I truly feel like we have a great line-up that can fight for this thing.
“We were teammates at Andretti so I feel like we have a pretty good baseline knowing what style we have, but I think this gives us another chance to go into IndyCar even stronger. We can help each other - he’ll probably learn some things from me, I’ll probably learn some things from him, and it’s going to help our own championship once we start in IndyCar. It’s just great. We live for this competition. This is what it makes it so fun and it helps you in the long run.
Herta observed: “I feel like after being teammates in Indy Lights, I probably know most of what’s going to happen – Pato’s going to want a much looser car than everybody else, and we’re going to have to meet somewhere in the middle!
“The Roar will be my first time in a Prototype, but this is why we have a great line-up. We have drivers like Devlin and Eric who have done a few races – well, Eric has done a lot of sportscar racing, he has the experience with this car and this team. So I’m hoping to rely on him a lot to help me get up to speed and do a lot of the baseline running at the Roar to make sure the car’s in the right place.
“But as tracks go, Daytona’s very simple – there’s not much to the track so it shouldn’t be too hard to get up to speed.”
Herta also stressed the significance of this sportscar opportunity, given how tough it is to get seat-time in U.S. open-wheel in winter.
“With testing being so limited in IndyCar and having such a big off-season, it’s massive,” said the 21-year-old who amassed six wins in his first three years of IndyCar. “Andretti [Autosport] is only going to do one test at Sebring before the season starts and that’s going to be in mid-February. So definitely need to have a race situation to knock the rust off and get back into it. It’s very important.”
DeFrancesco, erstwhile Indy Lights driver who has graduated to the #29 Andretti Autosport-Honda for 2022, said: “I think it’s going to benefit me to be able to work alongside these guys in an environment together.
“I’ve seen a lot of both their data from Indy Lights, and Colton’s data from IndyCar, so I’ve seen a lot about how they drive, and I think it’s going to help me get up to speed before the 2022 IndyCar season starts.
Lux, who teamed with DeFrancesco, Christopher Mies and Fabian Schiller in DragonSpeed’s Oreca last January to finish third, said: “I wish I could make time slow down a little bit so we could fit a few more of these things in. This is really special and even though these guys are about a third of my life younger, I know the talent they have, the speed they have, and I’m really looking forward to learning a few things from them on the data and throughout the next couple of weeks and January…
“This is probably the strongest line-up I’ve had going into the Rolex 24 – Colton, Pato, Devlin – all fantastic drivers not even anywhere close to the peak of their careers. I’m just honored to be with them. DragonSpeed has shown what they can do at Daytona and I think we have the package to be one of the top competitors here so I’m beyond excited to kick things off next month.”
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