The European invasion of US open-wheel racing continued overnight with confirmation that Latvian Harald Schlegelmilch had inked a deal to join Conquest Racing on its return to the Atlantic series.
Having failed to translate his race-winning form in the European-based Formula Master series into a regular GP2 berth - although he did contest the inaugural GP2 Asia Series in 2007-08 - Schlegelmilch will contest the season-opening Atlantic race at Sebring on 20 March. He will begin his programme at this week's series group test at Palm Beach International Raceway, beginning Wednesday.
“We've had a lot of success in the Atlantic Championship in the past and we look to build on that success with Harald at Sebring next week,” stated team boss Eric Bachelart, “We're anxious to get out on track with him at the test this week. He has good experience in open-wheel cars in Europe and I think he will be competitive aboard our Atlantic car. We have a history of introducing drivers to North American racing and we're happy to welcome Harald to our team.”
Schlegelmilch admitted that it was easier to give up on his European ambitions once he heard about the generous prize package being put in place for this year's Atlantic series.
“Coming to race in Atlantics was very appealing because of the prize package, but also because it is a competitive series - it was an easy decision to make,” he explained, “I think it will be easy to adapt to the car thanks to my previous experience in Europe and I can't wait to take it out on track tomorrow. I'm happy to be joining a professional team like Conquest Racing and want to thank Eric Bachelart for giving me this opportunity. I'm sure we will do a good job.”
Conquest previously fielded cars in the Atlantic Championship in 2006 and 2007, recording five wins and setting a record nine consecutive podium finishes in 2006 courtesy of Graham Rahal - who finished second in the championship - and Ryan Lewis. The following year, the team counted on rookies Matt Lee and Giacomo Ricci, before ending its involvement to focus on the unified IndyCar Series in 2008.