Trevor Carlin says he wants his team to join the Verizon IndyCar Series for 2017 but will not make the move unless he’s certain Carlin Racing can maintain its strong reputation.
Carlin, whose Indy Lights drivers Ed Jones and Felix Serralles are two of the main contenders for the 2016 championship, says his plans to expand into the top series next season are still on track but he says he’s “a long way off” being able to confirm that it’s happening.
He told Motorsport.com: “I’ve got nothing concrete yet. I’m pressing as many buttons and opening as many doors as I can, it’s something we’re trying desperately hard to do, but I need a certain level of investment money to put everything together and a certain level of running money to put the first car on track.
“I’d say the chances of being on the grid next year are the best they’ve ever been, but there’s a long way to go before we’re confident of putting our entries in.”
Regarding engine choice, Carlin says it wasn’t something he was worried about, despite the fact that IndyCar seems set to freeze the current aero regulations for 2017, thereby maintaining Chevrolet’s edge over Honda on all but the superspeedways for at least one more year.
“I think for us in Year 1, that’s not a concern,” he remarked. “It doesn’t matter which aerokit we had. We’ll have so much to learn and so much to pick up. We’ll just be using the other teams with the same engine as our gauge of where we’re at.
“I mean, yeah, to be honest, it would be more helpful if the new universal aerokit was brought in next year so we didn’t have to learn the current kit and then swap it just a year later. But like I say, we’ll cope with whatever we’ve got.”
Driver lineup wouldn’t include Chilton
Carlin says that despite Graeme Chilton being a co-owner of the team, and his son Max Chilton having raced for Carlin in Formula 3, GP2 and Indy Lights, the young Briton is not part of the team's 2017 plans in IndyCar.
“No, not at all,” he said. “As far as we’re aware, Max will be continuing as a Ganassi driver, and that’s that. If one year when we’re up and running, Graeme and Max feel we’re good enough, then that’s a different story, but it wouldn’t make any sense for Max to leave Chip Ganassi’s team for a team making its debut in the series! Max has got his career to think of and right now, the opportunity to be one of the best teams in the series is always going to be more appealing.”
Asked if there was a possibility that Carlin could partner with Ganassi to run Chilton as a fourth or fifth entry, in the way that Schmidt Peterson Motorsport did for the Indy 500 before moving up to IndyCar full-time, Carlin said: “No, I don’t think so. I’ve never spoken to Chip. He probably doesn’t even know who I am!”
Carlin went on to explain that he would like at least one of his drivers to be a Carlin graduate, but wouldn’t necessarily be one of the current Lights drivers.
“At this stage, it’s hard to say who we’d have, although I’d love to have Carlin alumni drive for us,” he said. “There are other Carlin drivers in the world who could step in and do a good job for us and that would help showcase the Carlin ladder to the top. But I’d also like a driver already with IndyCar experience who’s of a proven quality.”
Staff lineup would also blend experience with youth
Carlin said he will take a similar attitude toward the engineering lineup as he will with the drivers.
“I think we need both – engineers with IndyCar experience, and good people we already have in Indy Lights and Europe as well,” he stated. “We want to be seen as being able to take our top engineers all the way to Indy, but having current and relevant IndyCar team personnel will definitely fast-track us, and help us get to where we need to be.
“But like I say, we want to do this right, that’s the important thing. We want to be in IndyCar for 20 years and more, and so coming in with the right preparation and the important elements in place will continue what I hope is the reputation we have for professionalism at all levels of the sport. That will attract even more of the right people, the right drivers, the right partners…
“We’re very excited about it, but if we have to wait until 2018 to do it properly, then that’s what we’ll do.”