Both driver Gabby Chaves and team president Brian Barnhart have acknowledged they have a tough road ahead as a single-car entry in an IndyCar Series that is going through a major technical revamp.
Harding Racing, which made its first three IndyCar entries last year and shone with ninth at Indianapolis 500 and fifth at Texas, confirmed on Friday that it was to take part in the full 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
However, the team will not get its first test of the new Dallara aerokit-equipped car until the first week of February at Sonoma Raceway, and with IndyCar continuing to run practice sessions of only 45 minutes this year, track time will be at a premium for the only full-time one-car team in the IndyCar paddock.
Talking of the burden of learning a new car on his own, 2014 Indy Lights champion Chaves said: “Although it’s probably not ideal, it was done with great success a few years back, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Simon Pagenaud. And the last few years Graham Rahal has shown that a one-car effort can be just as competitive as a multiple-car team.
“Obviously the question at hand is with a reset in [technical] development, obviously track time is going to be very valuable, and how much information you can gather over a session will be very valuable as well. So I think we’re going to have to be extra-diligent in our work and make sure that everything we do has purpose to it and we’re not just out there running laps just to run laps. That’s maybe where we can make up some of the information that we won’t get from a second car.”
Barnhart admitted that Harding Racing might temporarily expand to a two-car effort this year, particularly at Indianapolis, and that running two fulltime entries was the squad’s eventual target. However, he said no additional car would be added unless it helped Chaves’ performance.
“Ultimately our goal will be to expand to a two-car effort for the entire season,” he said. “Obviously finances and sponsorship are driving that at this point of team. We’re not going to add a car unless it adds value.
“With the short sessions, the multi-car teams obviously have advantages. But we’re not going to throw [another] one out there unless it can be advantageous to Gabby as our primary effort, with data, input, feedback.
“We think we’ve got some options down the road that we can expand into – we still have an eye toward a potential second car at Indianapolis and maybe a couple other races if the right circumstances presented itself. We most definitely would like to expand to a two-car effort full-time.”