Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has announced additional staff for its 2018 IndyCar season campaign, including the hiring of renowned race engineer Todd Malloy as the team’s technical director.
Malloy, who is most famous as race engineer at the then-fledgling Bryan Herta Autosport team for Dan Wheldon’s 2011 Indy 500 win and at Forsythe Racing for Paul Tracy’s 2003 CART Indy car championship, arrives at Schmidt Peterson after three years at Chip Ganassi Racing.
SPM’s release describes Malloy’s new role as “leading the engineering department as a whole with a focus on the competition side in regards to the team’s direction, development and race performance.”
Billy Vincent, who worked with Takuma Sato at Andretti Autosport for most of the 2017 season and who served as crew chief for Simon Pagenaud when the Frenchman won the IndyCar title with Team Penske in 2016, has also been appointed at SPM.
Other new crew members include Norm Hornitschek, Chris Nash and Joey Curotto. Hornitschek, like Malloy, worked for a period with the legendary Newman Haas Racing team but has also gained vast experience in sportscars, earning three titles and a Rolex 24 Hours win. Nash, like Vincent, comes from Penske and will serve both teams and operate as a fueler on racedays. Curotto arrives from Ganassi Racing and will maintain the team’s bodywork.
Meanwhile Eric Pinkham has joined SPM as VP of partner strategy at SPM, having most recently filled a similar role at CSM Sport & Entertainment (formerly Just Marketing, Inc.) and will now assist with both business development and partnership management.
Malloy happy with timing of move
Malloy said that after more than two decades, primarily in the race engineer, he’s excited by becoming technical director for an IndyCar team, and that he regards this offseason as the ideal time to be joining Schmidt Peterson.
He told Motorsport.com: “It’s a new role for me, so on a personal and professional level, that’s exciting, especially when I see there’s plenty of talent in all departments here.
“It feels like a good time to be making the switch, for two reasons. One is that [team co-owners] Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson are really doing a good job of pulling the team together, getting two really solid drivers in James [Hinchcliffe] and Robert [Wickens] and also growing the sponsor relationships.
“It’s great to see there’s going to be the appropriate engineering support to help utilize the resources here. It’s going to be fun to get everyone focused on extracting car speed for both drivers.
“The other thing is, setups need to radically change for the new spec aerokits, after three seasons using manufacturer kits. It’s a reset for everyone and we’re going to be tearing up a lot of what we’ve done before.
“So if you’re starting fresh with a new team, now’s a good time to do it. Everyone’s going to be scrambling to a certain extent, but I like that – I don’t like it when the rules get stagnant.”
Hinchcliffe and SPM scored a win at Long Beach last season, and on several other street courses he was fast, but in the latter half of the season, the team’s performance tailed off, particularly on natural road courses. Malloy said that the response within the team has been increased research and development in this offseason.
“Without going into specifics, we’re really stepping up R&D,” he commented. “As of right now, Dallara and IndyCar has only released a limited amount of information to the teams prior to everyone having their new cars in January. So ourselves and Ganassi have been running some tests for Honda, but most of what we’re doing is very much focused on HPD. A lot of people seem to think we’re getting a big headstart but the tests are structured around our engine partner rather than developing our own setups.
“So without solid aero information other than what we’ve tried on behalf of IndyCar and Dallara, we haven’t been able to work much in that area. So first order for all teams, I think, has been working around the altered weight distribution of the new car. It has a huge influence on the cars at all tracks.”
Aiming for Penske and Ganassi in 2018
By working at Bryan Herta Autosport before it merged with Andretti Autosport, to then joining Ganassi, Malloy went from a very small one-car team to a well-funded four-car operation. But he said switching back to two cars/drivers at Schmidt Peterson providing two streams of data was not going to be a major hurdle.
“I think the usefulness of running multiple cars is defined by who’s driving them,” Malloy said, “so if they have fundamentally different driving styles, it can make the situation more challenging.
“We’re optimistic that James and Robert will complement each other, although we won’t be 100 percent confident of that until we get out there with both cars. But that’s the ideal scenario – where each side of the team builds up the other side.”
On the subject of where he believed the Schmidt Peterson team might be in terms of pace relative to its rivals, Malloy said his aim was to be mixing it with Team Penske and Ganassi at the front of the field.
“Obviously we’re coming from further back, based on where we’ve been the past couple of years,” he said, “so we have a bigger hill to climb. But that’s absolutely what we aim to do.
“There are parts of our program that we know we need to work on and it’s not an overnight thing, but this really is a great year to try and make a significant step forward and catch up with them. And I believe we can do it based on the talent within SPM.”