James Winslow has confirmed that he will return to the US open-wheel racing scene in 2010, inking a deal with the crack Sam Schmidt Motorsport squad for the Firestone Indy Lights campaign.
After impressing in his debut test at Sebring at the start of March, a repeat performance at Homestead-Miami Speedway cemented the Briton's place in the line-up, and he will now make his competitive debut, carrying the colours of the Bright Side of the Road Foundation, when the 2010 season kicks off on the streets of St Petersburg, in Florida, this weekend.
The move to Indy Lights is the next step on Winslow's planned route to the IZOD IndyCar Series, the pinnacle of US open-wheel motorsport, following a part-season in the Atlantic Championship in 2009. Prior to that, the Briton has excelled in international competition, claiming three titles in as many years, and four in all, as he worked up through the ranks. Having come close to a Champ Car ride in the past, however, Winslow is determined to achieve his American dream.
“I had the opportunity to race V8 Supercars in Australia this season, but really wanted to make it in open-wheel racing before looking at touring cars,” he admits, “Racing in America last season gave me a taste for US motorsport, and stepping into the Firestone Indy Lights series takes me one step closer to the IRL.
“Joining a team with the pedigree of Sam Schmidt Motorsport should also give me a chance to shine. They have constantly been one of the frontrunners in this series, and our testing performances have shown that we can be as competitive as anyone. I love the Indy Lights car, and the driving style it requires is very similar to the Renault V6 in which I won the title in 2007, which is why I believe I'll be on the pace from the off.”
Having topped the times while running on old rubber during the Sebring test, Winslow ended the two-day Homestead session second on the timesheets, impressing team boss, and former IndyCar runner, Sam Schmidt.
“The years that James has had in various levels of European open-wheel racing should make him an instant contender in this series,” Schmidt said, “He's proven to be quick across the pond, and he's showed us he's quick here in our cars. We're looking forward to seeing what he can do on the track.”
Although he has shown well on the road courses at Sebring and Homestead, the Indy Lights schedule will pit Winslow against all types of circuit, including the ubiquitous US ovals. While Indianapolis Indy 500 event will undoubtedly be a stand-out highlight of his season, the Briton remains focused on the job at hand.
“The St Petersburg street course will be new to me,” he revealed, “but I have always been quick to learn new circuits, I enjoy the challenge of these places and have always gone well at tracks like Macau and Surfers Paradise. With the team's vast experience and prior knowledge of St Pete at my disposal, I see no reason why we can't be frontrunners this weekend.
“I must thank the team, Sam Schmidt, Bald Spot Sports and all the people who have made this happen. I'm also especially proud to be running the 'Bright Side of the Road Foundation' logo and helping this great cause.”