Luis Michael Dorrbecker’s first taste of the Verizon IndyCar Series has him eager for his upcoming test with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports at the Sebring International Raceway short course on Wednesday.
The 24-year-old Mexican, who was born in Gifhorn, Germany, attended the Phoenix Raceway open test Feb. 10-11 as a guest of the team. While he has never raced on an oval, let alone been to one, he was eager to get behind the wheel.
“If I had the chance, I would like to jump out there right now,” Dorrbecker said. “Obviously it looks very impressive the amount of downforce they use on oval like this. It makes for huge speeds in the corners even when you see that it is not a superspeedway. It is a very small oval so it’s just amazing.”
A graduate of European F3 and Formula Renault 2000 who also raced in the United States in Skip Barber competition, Dorrbecker achieved a career milestone last year when he won the Auto GP championship on the strength of 10 wins.
After racing in Europe for seven years, he is shifting gears with sights toward the Verizon IndyCar Series. Dorrbecker has long been a fan of Indy car racing because of the diversity the series offers. Seeing everything firsthand confirmed that.
“I’m pleasantly surprised, so to speak, because it’s one of my favorite series,” he said.
“On a personal level, it is the most complete series in the world,” he said. “You have superspeedways, ovals, (temporary street) circuits, road courses and you have to be fast on all of them. I can’t say I’m surprised, I kind of imagined it like this.”
While the on-track product has him excited, Dorrbecker also finds the openness of the INDYCAR paddock very welcoming compared to what he is used to seeing in Europe.
“It’s definitely a big surprise because I’m used to (a paddock) where everything is closed off,” he said. “Everyone is in their area and no one speaks to anyone. It’s obviously very different but it is very nice. Everyone can see what everyone is doing and it’s just a lot more friendly.”
Heading into his first test, Dorrbecker’s goal is to log laps close to the times that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports regulars James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin put down Tuesday while allowing himself time to learn. The team is also scheduled to test DTM touring car driver Robbie Wickens and blossoming sports car driver Pipo Derani over the course of the two days at Sebring.
“I would like to be fast,” he said. “Since we have all the data from Mikhail and James testing one day before, being near their time would be a perfect day for me, but it is the first time that I am in one of these cars.
“I guess I just have to take it slow. I think by the end of the day, if we are near what they did, we did a pretty OK job. At the end, the engineers and the team are the ones who see all the data and know everything that I’m going to be doing.”
Piers Phillips, team manager of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, has high hopes for Dorrbecker, acknowledging the young driver’s methodical and eager attitude as a good starting point.
“He’s very keen on learning about all of the aspects of the Indy car,” Phillips said. “He’s not just a guy showing up to hop in the car and do a few laps; he’s very interested in what really goes into driving it and getting the most out of it.
“Your attitude off track tends to correlate with how you perform on track,” Phillips added. “His excitement and eagerness to prove himself, as well as his interactions with the team so far shows how committed he is to making the most of the experience.”
The two-day Sebring test is scheduled to feature 20 of the 21 full-season Verizon IndyCar Series entries. It is not open to the public.
The 2017 season is less than two weeks away, with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg weekend set for March 10-12. Tickets are available at gpstpete.com. The race airs live at noon ET March 12 on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.