Despite Carlin’s inaugural IndyCar test starting only today, Max Chilton is confident that if any team can overcome the tight timescale before the season begins in St. Petersburg in March, it’s Trevor Carlin’s squad.
After expanding his legendary squad to include an American arm and competing for three years in the Indy Lights championship – clinching the 2016 title with Ed Jones – Trevor Carlin is further extending his team’s reach with expansion into the Verizon IndyCar Series this year.
And although the Carlin team turned its first wheel today at Homestead-Miami road course, and its second car’s aerokit was only delivered last Saturday, Chilton says Carlin can still shine.
Chilton, who spent his first two IndyCar seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing, told Motorsport.com: “We’ve got very little time, not many track days to get things sorted out in time for St. Pete, but if any team is going to make the best of it, it’s Carlin. We’ve got lots to catch up on, as we’re millions of miles behind some of the teams that have been testing this 2018 car already, so we’ve got to work efficiently to catch up.
“I’m excited to work with a British team, and two of my three seasons with Carlin have been the most successful years of my career [fourth in the 2009 British Formula 3 championship, fifth in the 2015 Indy Lights championship].”
Chilton and teammate Charlie Kimball – also arriving from Ganassi, after seven seasons – shook down the team’s first car at Homestead today, completing around 90 laps.
“There were no hiccups at all, apart from a faulty radio,” said Chilton, “and I think that’s outstanding for a car that hadn’t run before. We only did half a day, but didn’t have a single issue, which is a great start. But then I didn’t expect any less, because Carlin always perfect everything they possibly can so I wasn’t anticipating any issues.
“We’ve got lots of setup work to do, but that’s fine – we weren’t really focusing on that today. We were focused on getting the miles done.”
Chilton admitted he hadn’t pushed to the limits of the car given that the team is currently restricted for parts, but still he could feel the considerable differences between the 2018 universal aerokit and the manufacturer-developed kits he’d used for the entirety of his IndyCar career so far.
“When you’re just shaking down, there’s always a little bit of pressure on a driver in a newly built car to not put a wheel wrong,” he said. “But I gave it some beans, and so did Charlie; we needed to push hard enough to figure out what we want to do with the handling. And mine and Charlie’s comments were exactly the same, so when Charlie does a full day tomorrow, he’ll know exactly what to chase, and then I’ll have two days at Sebring on Wednesday and Thursday to continue that work.”
Asked if he and Kimball’s setup preferences were closer or further apart with the new car than they had been at Ganassi with the manufacturer aerokits, Chilton said: “We always had different setups but I’d say me, Tony [Kanaan] and Charlie wanted the cars pretty similar – especially compared with Scott who was out on his own with his setups. He loves a very, very loose car. I don’t mind it loose but Scott can handle cars that a lot of people can’t.
“But yeah, me and Charlie were never a million miles away in terms of setup, and he’s really good with his feedback, having his dad’s engineering background. I’m more simple, describing the issues and letting the engineers figure out how to fix it. But hopefully between us we’ll develop the car really quickly and be fighting at St. Pete for some good results.”