Luca Filippi may finally be on the brink of making his long-hoped for début in the IZOD IndyCar Series, after confirmation that he will test for the Barracuda Racing/Bryan Herta Autosport team on July 31 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Mid-Ohio is where the next round of the IndyCar championship will be held on August 4, and so there's high hopes and speculation that the 27-year-old Italian might be about to be handed the race seat for the race itself on August 4.
"We're taking this opportunity to evaluate our program as we look toward the future,” said team co-owner Bryan Herta. “It makes sense at this point to look at the available pool of drivers that may fit into our future plans."
Filippi has been working for an opening in the IndyCar Series ever since the end of the 2011 GP2 Series season which saw him deliver a storming run to the runners-up spot in that year's championship behind Romain Grosjean, who was rewarded with a return to F1 duties with Lotus F1 the following year.
No such opportunities presented themselves to Filippi, who instead headed west to work on a mooted race seat at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. When that didn't work out, Filippi made a two-round return to GP2 at the end of 2012 and impressed with winning at Monza in his first competitive race in nearly a year.
"I've been working and waiting for a chance like this my whole life," said Filippi on Friday. "I can't wait to test the #98 Barracuda Racing car and hopefully make the most of this opportunity to learn first-hand about IndyCar racing."
If Filippi did go on pick up the race seat for the Mid-Ohio race next weekend, it would be at the expense of Canada's Alex Tagliani. Tagliani has underperformed in 2013 with only two top ten finishes (at St Petersburg and Toronto) all season, a far cry from the heights of 2011 which saw him win pole for the Indianapolis 500 and the following event at Texas Motor Speedway.
"We want to thank Alex for being a team player during the process and we look forward to seeing what Luca can do during the test in Mid-Ohio," said Herta, who added that Tagliani remained under contract with the team through to the end of the current season.
"It's never fun for a driver to not be in the car," Tagliani admitted. "But I see the benefit in racing in a team with a teammate as opposed to being a single-car team. In this sport, things can turn around quickly."
Media reports suggest that the Barracuda Racing/Bryan Herta Autosport team is also looking at giving former Panther Racing driver JR Hildebrand a race opportunity in the #98 down the line, possibly at either Sonoma or Baltimore.
If both drivers were to impress, there is the option for Hildebrand and Filippi to alternate in the race seat while the team continues to evaluate their performances.