By Road to Indy
Competitors in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires – the top rung of the world-renowned Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires driver development ladder system – will turn their attention to the Sunshine State in just over a month’s time for a two-day Series Open Test at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Fla., on December 11 and 12.
Sebring has long been a popular off-season locale for teams, being renowned as the best portrayal of a street circuit – which typically offers precious little track time – and will be extremely relevant heading into the 2020 calendar opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.
“There’s no better place to get ready for St. Pete and Toronto than Sebring,” said reigning Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew. “St. Pete is smoother than Toronto, which is as bumpy as Sebring if not bumpier, but it’s the low-grip factor that makes it such a relevant testing ground. Sebring also has a good mix of both high and low speed corners and heavy braking zones – it’s in the top-five tracks in terms of braking force.
“It’s hard to simulate the kind of walls you encounter on a street course, but Sebring has a few corners where, if you’re an inch off the line, it can bite you. It’s dusty and it gets really hot during the middle of the day, so track temps and lap times change quite a bit. It’s a good place to work on street course setups, to test in hot weather and get used to those conditions, and to gel with the team early in the testing season.”
The 1.8-mile, 11-turn Sebring Club Course will play host to a field that will include the debut of Exclusive Autosport, race winners in both the Indy Pro 2000 Series Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, which will now compete on all three levels. The team announced its intent to enter two cars in 2020 at the season finale in September.
HMD Motorsports is looking to expand from a two-car team to a three and possibly four-car squad for 2020 and already has the third car in their possession. The team was no stranger to podium results in 2019, guiding English rookie Toby Sowery to his first career win and third place in the championship, and fellow rookie David Malukas, of Chicago, Ill., to a pair of podium results.
Indy Lights stalwarts Andretti Autosport, Belardi Auto Racing and Juncos Racing are expected to return to the track with a full complement of drivers, and the potential for another new team entry to the Indy Lights paddock is in the works.
“A lot of teams head to Sebring for winter testing, and to this year make it an official series’ two-day test benefits all of our teams as well as new drivers looking at the series,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “We have high expectations for an increased field size next season, although 2019 produced some outstanding competition, and we will be closely following our two most recent champions – Oliver Askew and Patricio O’Ward – as they make their full season NTT IndyCar Series debuts.
“We’ve had some exciting announcements of late including the introduction of the CFP [Cockpit Frontal Protection] device, new series partner Bell Helmets, the creation of the Construction Contractors Club and the return of Hi-Tide Boat Lifts and the rewarding Kids On Track program. We have additional news in the pipeline as we look to make 2020 one of our best seasons yet for the Road to Indy.”
Competitors on the Road to Indy will be vying for an increased prize package in 2020 with over $2.7M on deck in race and season-ending prizes and awards including an Indy Lights scholarship package valued at $1M for entry into three IndyCar races in 2021, including the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
Parties interested in open seats for the December 11 and 12 Sebring Open Test, can contact Series Development Director Jonny Baker at [email protected]