European 'exile' Charlie Kimball has revealed that he is to return to racing in his homeland this season, after inking a deal to join the burgeoning Firestone Indy Lights series with Team PBIR.
The American, who has based himself in Europe to race in Formula Ford, F3 and the World Series by Renault in recent seasons, will follow in the tracks of Jonathan Summerton and John Edwards in returning the USA, and will pilot PBIR's #35 car in its first Lights campaign.
“I'm really excited,” the Californian admitted, eyeing the orange-and-blue Palm Beach International Raceway machine, “It's a great opportunity for me, and I'm just getting ready to work with everybody here. It's coming together really late and though this is a new team, the people working with the team and infrastructure they have built have been around for years and years. Hopefully, I can use their experience to lead through the season and get results.
"It is neat to have people that have shaped IndyCar champions and Indy 500 winners working with me behind the scenes. All that experience will give me the tools that I need to get on the track, win, and be successful.”
Kimball's European dream was derailed two years ago when he was forced to stand down from the World Series after being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Although he worked with a team of diabetes specialists in order to reach the required physical condition to race, he dropped back to the F3 Euroseries for 2008, finishing second in his return to action. The condition, however, now provides a reason for returning home.
“One of the driving forces for me to race in the US in 2009 is the chance to touch the diabetes community more effectively and educate people with diabetes that there's no reason to limit what you do in your life,” Kimball said, “Having diabetes has changed my life most definitely, but not added any limitations to what I can do.”
The 24-year old will make his Indy Lights debut at the St Petersburg double-header next weekend, where he will square up to Summerton, amongst others. The highly-rated American tested the PBIR car last month, before appearing to have been forced to settle for an Atlantics ride. Last weekend, however, Summerton announced that he would join RLR/Andersen Racing, bringing him back into direct competition with former F3 Euroseries rival Kimball.
"We are very excited about the partnership between Charlie and Team PBIR," Palm Beach International Raceway vice-president Kane Williams said, "He is a talented driver and will be an asset to our team both on and off the track."
Despite not having raced in the US since the inauguration of the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg, Kimball is confident that his experience of some of the world's greatest street circuits will come into play.