HVM Racing looks set to return to the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2013 after all, after being among the teams selected to receive a subsidy of at least $1 million dollars from the championship's Leaders Circle program.
The program distributes revenue raised from the series' commercial income in 2013 - including TV rights and sanctioning fees - among the various full-time competitors in an effort to ensure the quality of on-track competition is balanced throughout the field. To actually receive the funds, the entrant must successfully qualify for the Indianapolis 500 in May.
Last year the series limited the subsidies to 20 teams, but this time the organisers have used their discretionary powers to extend the program to all 22 returning full-time entries in the 2013 season. That will include Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing's Josef Newgarden as well as one of the Dragon Racing entries - almost certainly that of Sebastien Bourdais - which otherwise would not have been eligible.
But the surprise is the additional inclusion of HVM Racing in the list of Leaders Circle recipients, as the team's participation in the new season had been thought to be in considerable doubt until this point following the exit of their former driver Simona de Silvestro to take up a seat at KV Racing Technology. (See story
De Silvestro had been with HVM since her IndyCar début in 2010, and her departure also meant the team lost her sizeable personal sponsorship backing from Entergy Nuclear, AREVA and the Nuclear Clean Air Energy campaign, seemingly leaving HVM with little left in the cupboard with which to mount a 2013 entry.
The team's exit from IndyCar became even more likely last month when it announced a partnership with Status GP to field a Lola Coupe in the LMP2 class of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship. (See story
But the Leaders Circle funds mean that HVM will indeed be back in IndyCar in 2013, even though no formal announcement has yet been made and no drivers have been linked with the now-vacant race seat. The team said on Wednesday that their car would be a co-branded entry with another operation.
“We'll be collaborating with another team on our entry, the details of which will be revealed shortly,” said team owner Keith Wiggins, who confirmed that the Leaders Circle funds had been received contingent on that to-be-confirmed relationship.
HVM's inclusion among the teams receiving the $1 million subsidy was only possible because three of last year's entries are no longer running: Ganassi has stepped down to a three-car team with the departure of Graham Rahal to Rahal Letterman Lanigan for this season, while KV Racing is set to be a two-car line-up after losing both EJ Viso and Rubens Barrichello in exchange for de Silvestro running alongside retained team stalwart Tony Kanaan.
Perhaps the other big surprise in the Leaders Circle announcement is confirmation that the third of last year's entries to be formally dropped is the Team Penske car of Ryan Briscoe, meaning that the Australian is in urgent need of a new race seat before the season opener in St Petersburg on March 24.
Of the 24 likely full-time entries in total for the 2013 season, only HVM and Dale Coyne Racing are yet to announce their driver line-up, although Justin Wilson is expected to take one of the Dale Coyne seats and former F1 driver Narain Karthikeyan has recently been linked to the other.
This year's only confirmed entries not to receive Leaders Circles funds are the new second cars being fielded for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, to be driven by Tristan Vautier and James Jakes respectively. Dragon Racing is also said to be hoping to find funds and an additional Chevrolet engine deal to put Britain's Katherine Legge back into a second car in 2013.Hamilton confirms Schmidt partnership extension
Former IndyCar driver Davey Hamilton has confirmed that he will remain as a co-owner of the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports' #77 entry driven by Simon Pagenaud.
Hamilton's status with the team had been described as up in the air last week. SPM confirmed the signing of Tristan Vautier as its second driver, but at the same time it also announced that the team had brought in a new equity partner, Ric Peterson, leading to the change in the squad's name after racing as Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports in 2012. (See story
Hamilton indicated at the time that while he'd worked well with Sam Schmidt last year, it now seemed likely that he would go elsewhere to continue his team ownership activities in 2013. However, subsequent negotiations have bridged the gap and seen Hamilton stay on after all; his involvement with the team comes with substantial financial backing from Hewlett-Packard.
"Ric Peterson and I worked directly on this deal," Hamilton told SPEED.com
on Wednesday. "Sam was busy and couldn't make it, but it was really easy with the Petersons and I think we'll have a great season together."
Hamilton also explained how the new partnership would work.
"The easiest way to explain it is Schmidt Peterson owns the entire team," he said. "The Schmidt Hamilton entry for Simon Pagenaud with HP is the #77 car, and the #55 for Tristan is the Schmidt Peterson entry." He added that it would be "like two entries under one team."