New IndyCar team owner Trevor Carlin says it was a moving experience to see Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball embark on the team’s first shakedown test with a Dallara-Chevrolet at Homestead-Miami road course.
The team ran for five hours today, Chilton driving first before handing over to Kimball who will do a full day at Homestead tomorrow. Chilton will then run two days at Sebring on Wednesday/Thursday.
Carlin told Motorsport.com: “I was excited to be honest; it was really quite emotional to see it heading down the pitlane for the first time. And it came back under its own power, which is good!
“To be brutally honest with you, the guys have done an incredible job with it, like we’ve been running these cars for years. There’s lots of things to be learning, but it’s all just happened in a normal fashion so really I’m very pleased – and excited for the team.”
Carlin said that apart from still needing one data engineer, the team lineup is complete, with Daniele Cucchiarroni – ex-AJ Foyt Racing – as race engineer for Chilton and Matt Greasley running Kimball. Greasley first worked for Carlin as long ago as 2007, but already had Formula 1, F3000 and F3 experience by then. Most recently, he’s been race engineer in Indy Lights for the Del Ray, FL-based arm of the Carlin empire.
Geoff Fickling, who ran both Gabby Chaves and Ed Jones in Lights, will also work with the IndyCar team, “probably” as a strategist.
Carlin praised the Chevrolet-Ilmor package for the complete absence of engine issues on the squad’s inaugural day of running, saying: “They’ve just been fantastic, absolutely spot on. We did the first fire-up last Wednesday and that all went absolutely according to plan. There was a lot of new software from Cosworth that needed to be programed but my guys took care of that no problem and the Ilmor guys just plugged in and got on with it. So we’re 100 percent happy with the service. Faultless, really.”
Carlin said that the team lost 45mins from its five hours just while completing the driver changeover, but had completed between around 90 laps of the 2.3-mile 11-turn course. The second of the new-for-2018 universal aerokits arrived at the shop last Saturday, so both cars will be in action for IndyCar’s Open Test at Phoenix next month, and will also complete more days at Sebring before the season’s opening round at St. Petersburg.
“It’s been a bit hectic, obviously – we’ve got one crew at the shop building the second car and one crew here,” he explained. “But actually we’ve not had a lot of interest in our Indy Lights team so far, so now that the Lights cars are prepped and ready to go, we’ve been able to throw more manpower at the IndyCars.
“I’ve had a couple of people get in contact about the Lights program over the past two weeks – incredibly late – and we hope to have two cars out there this year. But in some ways I guess it’s easier to raise money for IndyCar than it is for Indy Lights, even though the sum you’re looking for in IndyCar is a fair bit bigger. There’s the allure of the Indy 500 and also the better TV package.”
Following the tests, Carlin will also be focused on getting the crews well-drilled for pitstops, but says that he is no longer daunted by the tight timescales for getting up to speed with the procedural elements for a new team.
“It was like this in GP2, actually,” he said. “You have the racecars, but because of the schedule, you’d get back to the workshop with them in one piece, strip them and rebuild them, and then you get a couple of hours before you load them up again.
“But now we’ve got the old GP2 cars to practice all the time. It’ll be the same for the established IndyCar teams – they’ll have loads of old cars lying around that they can practice on. And we will get to that stage, of having a spare we can do pitstop practice on.
“We haven’t got that luxury yet but at least we’re up and running. It’s been a good day; really encouraging to see everything come together.”
Carlin ruled out the idea of running a third car in the Indy 500, saying: “I’ve had two serious enquiries already, but honestly, it’s not the right thing for us to do this year. I’m just happy to be doing what we’re doing and being in that race. That’s a big enough step without trying to crucify ourselves by running three.”