McLaren Is Returning To IndyCar Racing Full-Time From 2020 After A Break Of 40 Years
McLaren is to race full-time in IndyCars from next season in a new partnership with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM), fielding two cars using Chevrolet engines.
Under the partnership, SPM and McLaren will merge as one team and the squad will be renamed Arrow McLaren Racing SP. McLaren’s sporting director, twice CART champion Gil de Ferran, will have prominent involvement in the running of the programme. McLaren describes de Ferran’s role as to “helm a dedicated group from McLaren Racing, independent of the Formula 1 team.” SPM’s infrastructure will “underpin the team’s operations” and McLaren will add “technical expertise, commercial experience and marketing strength”. SPM co-founders Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson will continue in their current roles.
“IndyCar has been part of McLaren since our early years of racing,” said McLaren boss Zak Brown, “and the series today provides not only a commercial platform to continue to grow our brand in North America, but competition with some of the best teams in international motorsport. This team provides McLaren with the right synergy as a strategic partner for our return to the sport. We believe together we can help each other achieve our mutual ambitions. Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson have built a solid foundation and we look forward to working together to take the team to the next level.”
“IndyCar is a natural fit for McLaren,” added de Ferran, “given our legacy and determination to succeed at the top levels of international motorsport. Our ambition, over time, is to consistently compete for wins and championships.”
SPM has competed as a fully-fledged IndyCar team since 2011–the team having previously competed in Indianapolis 500s as well as in the forerunner series to Indy Lights. It has been a frequent IndyCar front-runner, winning seven races. Its most recent victory was at Iowa last year with James Hinchliffe. The team’s best championship result is third for Simon Pagenaud in 2013.
“I’m extremely proud of the team that Ric and I have built and that a legendary brand like McLaren Racing has decided to partner with us to form Arrow McLaren Racing SP to continue our march to the top of IndyCar,” Schmidt said.
McLaren last competed full-time in IndyCar in 1979, and more recently partnered with Andretti Autosport for Fernando Alonso’s 2017 Indianapolis 500 bid, wherein he fought at the front, including leading for 27 laps, prior to his engine failing late on. McLaren with Alonso also entered this year’s Indianapolis 500 as its own entry, but failed to qualify.
Today’s announcement did not mention the team’s 2020 driver line-up, though the news will lead inevitably to speculation about Alonso’s possible involvement. Alonso makes little secret of his ambition to win the Indianapolis 500 and therefore complete motorsport’s ‘triple crown’, having already won the Monaco Grand Prix and the Le Mans 24 Hours. Alonso has previously expressed reluctance to compete in an entire IndyCar season, though on Twitter responded positively to the announcement, calling it “fantastic news! A legendary brand racing full-time in F1 and Indy!”
SPM’s current full-time drivers are Hinchcliffe and Marcus Ericsson. While Hinchcliffe has strong Honda ties, Schmidt has stated his desire for a way to be found for Hinchcliffe to continue with the Chevrolet-powered team.
Images courtesy of McLaren