7 October 2014
IndyCar: Hinchcliffe to take up lead spot at SPM in 2015
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has signed James Hinchcliffe to lead the team in 2015 following the departure of Simon Pagenaud.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports confirmed on Tuesday that it has signed up James Hinchcliffe in a multi-year deal to take over the race seat of the team's #77 entry beginning next season, following the exit of Simon Pagenaud.
The widely-expected announcement means that Hinchcliffe will move to SPM immediately in order that he can take a full role in off-season testing ahead of what will be his fifth season in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
The 27-year old Canadian made his start in the championship in 2011 with Newman/Haas Racing team, with whom he won that season's Rookie Driver of the Year title. He subsequently moved to Andretti Autosport in 2013 in place of Danica Patrick in the GoDaddy.com-sponsored #27 entry and went on to pick up three race wins in the car in 2012 at St Petersburg, Sao Paulo and Iowa.
Prior to getting his IndyCar break, Hinchcliffe worked with Sam Schmidt's Indy Lights team in 2009, and he said he was happy to be reuniting with the team and excited for the opportunities the move presents.
"Despite being around in Indy Lights for years, SPM is a relatively young team in the IndyCar paddock," Hinchcliffe said. "To see what they have accomplished in the last few seasons has been incredible.
"Winning races, being competitive at all tracks and finishing in the top five in the championship against more experienced teams at this level is impressive," he added. "Because they are young, there is still room for them to grow and improve, and that's an exciting thought for me."
"James had great success in Indy Lights and other series on his way to IndyCar," said team co-owner Sam Schmidt. "In fact, he would already be with us driving the #77 if he would have been available three years ago. We went after him in 2011, but it didn't work out then.
"We know that his success in the Verizon IndyCar Series is no fluke," Schmidt continued. "We've now won races and contended for championships, and we believe he's going to be the person we need to keep moving forward as a team. It's a very big compliment to the team that James wants to come drive for us and that he thinks that he can win and contend for championships with us."
Schmidt's co-owner Ric Peterson said that Hinchcliffe had always been high on the list of names of drivers to take over the lead role at the team next season, following Simon Pagenaud's decision to leave the squad after three seasons and move to Team Penske.
"When Sam, [SPM general manager] Rob Edwards and I discussed who was going to drive our #77 car, it was always focused on who could help us achieve our two main goals over the next three years - winning the championship and the Indianapolis 500," Peterson said.
"James' three victories in 2013 and his two career front row starts at the Indy 500 were evidence that he had the potential to help us realize those goals," he added. "I am also very proud to welcome a fellow Canadian to our team!"
The team added that it was close to revealing the name of the their second driver for 2015, with Mikhail Aleshin likely to get another season with the team after he completes his rehabilitation from injuries sustained in a serious accident in practice for the 2014 season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California in August.
Rob Edwards also confirmed that Ben Bretzman, who had been the race engineer on the #77 for Pagenaud, had now left the team presumably so that he could follow the driver to Penske for 2015. A decision on who will be Hinchcliffe's race engineer will be made in due course with Edwards saying that they were looking in all racing paddocks for suitable candidates.
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