ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – Robert Wickens received an opportunity through close friend and fellow Canadian James Hinchcliffe to test an Indy car in February. Now Wickens, whose fulltime job is driving a DTM touring car, will put that experience to use on a Verizon IndyCar Series race weekend.
Wickens was named today to substitute for Hinchcliffe’s teammate, Mikhail Aleshin, in the No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda for Friday’s practice sessions at the KOHLER Grand Prix. Aleshin, the first Russian driver to race Indy cars, is working to resolve visa issues in time to compete in the remainder of weekend activities at Road America, including Sunday’s 55-lap race.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports issued the following statement regarding Aleshin’s status:
“Since competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with SMP Racing last weekend, Mikhail Aleshin, driver of the No. 7 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda in the Verizon IndyCar Series, has been unable to leave France due to immigration issues preventing him from returning to the United States. The executive team at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has been working diligently on Aleshin’s return to America to compete in this weekend’s KOHLER Grand Prix. However, at this time, the Russian driver will not arrive to Road America in time for any on-track sessions scheduled for Friday, June 23.
“The team have elected for Canadian Robert Wickens to pilot the No. 7 car until the immigration issue is resolved,” the statement continued.
“No further comments about Aleshin’s immigration status will be given at this time. The team will send further communication when an update is available.”
Wickens and Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, followed similar paths early in their open-wheel racing careers. Both competed in Formula BMW, A1GP (where they were teammates in 2007-08) and Formula Atlantics before Wickens headed to Europe to continue an open-wheel trail that included British Formula 3, FIA Formula 2, GP3 and Formula Renault 3.5.
As he was winning five races and the Formula Renault 3.5 championship in 2011, Wickens was also serving as a Formula One test driver for Marussia Virgin Racing. He shifted gears in 2012 and began competing in DTM, the European touring car series based in Germany. Wickens has won five DTM races since 2013.
Wickens and Hinchcliffe collaborated on a ride swap during the offseason. Wickens turned laps in Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Honda at Sebring International Raceway in February. Three weeks later, Hinchcliffe drove Wickens’ Mercedes AMG at the Autodromo Vallelunga Circuit outside Rome.
Watch recaps of their ride swaps below: