Take a walk through the Verizon IndyCar Series or Formula One paddock and it’s undeniable the impact Carlin has had over the two top-tier open-wheel landscapes without ever competing in either championship. Until now.
Team principal Trevor Carlin announced Tuesday that Carlin will field a two-car assault in the Verizon IndyCar Series with drivers Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball. It will be one of seven championships in which the British-based team will compete in 2018.
Labeled the “Blue Army” for its consistent run of blue liveries, Carlin has been a juggernaut across nearly every level of junior formula racing in Europe. In 2015, it added North America to its resume, setting up shop in Florida and competing in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires – the top level of INDYCAR’s sanctioned development ladder.
In three Indy Lights seasons, Carlin saw five of eight drivers take trips to victory lane. Ed Jones, who now drives for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series, won the 2016 Indy Lights championship for Carlin, which won the team championship. Carlin’s biggest feat, however, may have been graduating three drivers to the Verizon IndyCar Series in as many seasons – Chilton, Jones and 2017 Freedom 100 winner Matheus Leist, who will drive for AJ Foyt Racing next season.
The recipe for success was developed long ago and is credited to someone Carlin still reveres for his approach each day.
“I mean, we started off as a team, 17 or 18 years ago with just one Formula 3 car and the reason that team worked so well then was because of a fabulous Australian engineer, a guy called Bruce Carey, (who) passed away unfortunately a few years ago,” said Trevor Carlin, shown at left congratulating Kimball during the 2005 British Formula 3 season.
“But he taught myself and my other mechanics and engineers how to do a job properly and not take shortcuts and take your time and do things right. And what we've done now for the last 17 years is applied that principle to everything we do, be it a Formula 4 car, Formula 3 car, Formula 2, Indy Lights, Porsche Supercup, all these things we've done.
“We've used the same approach in everything we do. We're patient and we're methodical, and we work hard. And because of that we've instilled that into the company and everybody. I'm very proud to say we've got 80, 90, probably 100 people by the time this program starts, on board and they all share the same vision that we work hard and we are super competitive.
“We're fair. We don't cheat. We do things properly. And the results that you have seen over the last few years come from that philosophy. I'm very proud of the team and very excited about the future. If we can pull off some big results in INDYCAR in the next few years, then that will be magnificent. So just simple, really, just hard work and patience.”
To get an idea of the impact Carlin has made in major motorsports, nine drivers slated to be on the starting grid for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in March have driven for Carlin in the past. In addition to Chilton, Jones, Kimball and Leist are defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden, 2014 champion Will Power, reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and rookies Jack Harvey and Robert Wickens.
As it stands, Carlin alumni will also make up six seats in Formula One in 2018, with Marcus Ericsson, Brendon Hartley, Kevin Magnussen, Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz Jr. and four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel. If Robert Kubica is confirmed at Williams, that number would move to seven.
Success breeds success. Carlin’s website claims 381 race wins amassed across all series since its debut in 1997, and the team shows no signs of slowing down. Past Carlin drivers applauded the team’s move up to the Verizon IndyCar Series.
“It’s great to see Carlin in INDYCAR full time,” said Power of Team Penske. “I drove for them in 2005 (winning two races in World Series by Renault). They are a first-class operation. Trevor has been around for a long time and knows how to run a first-class operation A huge congratulations to Trevor on their full-time entries in 2018.”
Harvey, announced last week in a six-race deal to drive for Michael Shank Racing with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, echoed the sentiment.
“I am extremely happy for everyone at Carlin on making the step into INDYCAR,” he said. “There’s no doubt in my head they are ready for this step and will be competitive because, simply, they are in everything they do.
"I’m proud to be a small part of the team’s history and be a champion for them. I’m looking forward to getting back on track with them, especially at the highest level of racing possible, INDYCAR."
Conor Daly, a Carlin driver during the 2011 GP3 Series campaign, was equally as positive of the move.
“Trevor Carlin has always run an incredible team,” said Daly. “He’s run Formula One world champions, INDYCAR champions and successful drivers all around the world as they came through the ranks. It’s great to see them make the move to INDYCAR and I wish them the best.”
Carlin the team principal is eager to showcase the competitiveness and opportunity that the Verizon IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy provides to those on the other side of the Atlantic. It could provide a boost of exposure and future competitors for North America’s premier open-wheel series.
“It helped massively this year by Fernando Alonso coming over and doing the Indy 500,” Carlin said. “I operate with the junior drivers in motorsport and last year I had a huge amount of interest – people asking me about racing in the States, the youngsters asking about USF2000 and all the way up to INDYCAR.
“Hopefully we can be a bit of a showroom, a window for the European guys to see what's possible in America and we can bring some people over here, drivers and sponsors, let them realize what a great package it is and obviously send it around the Indy 500, which is the ultimate showcase of motorsport in the world, the No. 1 event.”