James Winslow looks set to return to US open-wheel racing in 2010, after impressing on his debut in the Firestone Indy Lights Series at Sebring.
The Briton, who spent a part-season in the 2009 Atlantic Championship before rounding out the year with an impressive maiden outing in Australia's Fujitsu V8 Supercar series, joined Indy Lights frontrunner Sam Schmidt Motorsport for a test at the Florida airfield circuit and proved quick 'straight out of the box', comparing favourably to team-mates Jean-Karl Vernay, Pippa Mann and Phillip Major.
Running two half days, Winslow enjoyed and endured the extreme of conditions, with rain on day two replacing the good weather that accompanied his first day in the Dallara, but proved quick throughout. Despite having his first ever run in an Indy Lights car, the multiple F3 and Renault V6 champion took just two sessions to be lapping right on the pace of more seasoned championship veterans, and believes he could have gone faster had he had the chance to run new tyres.
“I was really happy to be as quick as anyone - and possibly quicker – but it's a shame that I didn't get a new tyre run,” Winslow commented, “The team have tested at least four times before this, but it was my debut in an Indy Lights car and I actually went P1 on old rubber. We were going to go out on new tyres towards the end of the session, but I never got a proper run because of red flags.”
Although the second day of the test proved frustrating, as wet and windy conditions meant that everyone lapped more slowly, the Briton revealed that he had immediately felt at home behind the wheel of the 420hp 3.5-litre Dallara, comparing it favourably to the Renault V6 machine with which he claimed a third successive international title in 2007.
“I loved the cars and the style,” he enthused, “I got on the pace as quickly as I did because the car has the exact same driving style as the Renault V6, and I felt comfortable from the first few laps.”
Despite having opportunities in V8 Supercars after his impressive showing at Sydney's Homebush Park last December, Winslow's Sebring performance underpinned his decision to concentrate on open-wheel racing in the USA and another attempt at making the top flight after coming close to a Champ Car seat two years ago. He is currently in talks with two of the series' leading teams and hopes to be able to announce a deal before too long.
“The goal is IndyCar,” he confirmed, “I had an offer to do V8s this year, but I want to give IndyCar one more shot. I'll be on the Firestone Indy Lights grid in 2010, and we're just working through the details. I can't reveal which team I'll be with just yet, but I'm close to a deal. Sam Schmidt Motorsport did a great job, and it was great to be in such a good team, which does things right.”
Winslow hopes to be contest the entire 2010 campaign, running across the full range of circuits that the Indy Lights series races and introducing another new discipline to his already wide repertoire.
“Obviously, I already know about racing on road courses and street circuits, but I can't wait to get on the ovals – the Indy 500 will be awesome!” the Briton concluded.