By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
With the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season rapidly approaching, Motorsports Tribune is previewing each of the teams competing on the tour. The site’s IndyCar staff will break each team down, laying out their results from the previous season while previewing the year to come for the organization and their driver(s).
Team: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Drivers: James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wickens
What Happened Last Year: The 2017 season gave Hinchcliffe his first victory since New Orleans 2015 when the likable Canadian won at Long Beach. That plus two third-place finishes at Detroit and Toronto were his only highlights in a season strewn with results outside the top 10.
Hinchcliffe’s drive to 13th in points had numerous highlights including being involved in the five car incident late in the Indianapolis 500 and the big pile-up at Texas that showcased his now-famous “that’s adorable” quote.
The rest of his season was peppered with bad luck, from a crash at Pocono with JR Hildebrand to a massive early mechanical failure at Watkins Glen and an electrical failure past halfway at Sonoma, leaving the veteran to look forward to 2018 and trying to capture his second win at St. Petersburg.
Mikhail Aleshin drove the No. 7 Honda for most of the season before being replaced by Sebastian Saavedra and Jack Harvey. Aleshin’s highlights were three top 10 finishes before being replaced.
2018 Breakdown: This season will be a year of change for the Indianapolis-based squad. New staff members have joined the team, including celebrated engineer Leena Gade of sports car fame. The group have signed former open wheel standout Robert Wickens to pilot their newly-renumbered No. 6 entry.
Gade’s signing is a true wild card. She hasn’t set up a car for an oval and American motorsport is quite different from the European world. However Gade is up to the challenge, having won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
Hinchcliffe is looking to bounce back to the form he showed at Andretti Autosport when he won three races in 2013 at St. Petersburg, Sao Paulo and Iowa. Since that year, he’s gone winless in 2014 and spent the last half of 2015 in recovery from a practice crash at Indianapolis.
Wickens has spent the majority of his career in Europe, climbing the open wheel ladder before signing to race in the DTM championship in 2012. After six seasons in that category he returns to open wheel competition full time.
The team has an advantage of being the primary Honda test team for the 2018 Indy car with former part-time driver Oriol Servia behind the wheel. They had to share the data gained, but nothing can replace actually working the car and the knowledge gained from that.
While Hinchcliffe and Wickens are the teams’ primary drivers, there is a part time entry that will be allied with SPM in a technical partnership. Michael Shank’s organization is going IndyCar racing in 2018 with Jack Harvey behind the wheel for six races with a possibility of more if funding can be found. Harvey finished second in Indy Lights in 2014 and 2015 and drove in the 2017 Indianapolis 500 for Shank with an Andretti Autosport alliance.
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