Schmidt Peterson Motorsports general manager Rob Edwards confirmed that the team will have two full-time entries in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
“It’s trying to make sure we’re the best two-car team that we can be,” he noted.
To that end, GP2 veterans Davide Valsecchi, Stefano Coletti and Rodolfo Gonzalez will audition Dec. 16-17 at Sebring International Raceway in Florida for the opportunity to join James Hinchcliffe on the starting grid March 8 for the season opener in Brasilia, Brazil.
Hinchcliffe, who continued his 28th birthday celebration on a Sea Dream cruise this week, signed a multi-year contract with the team in early October. Allen McDonald will be his race engineer.
“There is a lot of competition and so the ability of a two-car team to compete and perhaps the advantage of a two-car team is if you find the right two drivers and have the right chemistry between those drivers then you can work at maximizing that opportunity.
“Running through some different drivers at Sebring is our opportunity to look at performance, which is always important, but from a chemistry point of view how the drivers interact with the team and interact with James and be able to form some opinions.”
Valsecchi, 27, of Italy, is the 2012 GP2 champion who was the test/reserve driver for Lotus F1 Team in 2013.
“I'm very focused on having the best test possible to show the qualities I have as a driver,” said Valsecchi, who visited the Indianapolis shop Dec. 11 for a seat fit. “I hope to do a good job because I know this is a top-level team.
“The Verizon IndyCar Series seems to have the best competition of all driving series worldwide, so I would love the opportunity to compete here. There are always so many overtakes in their races, which is what makes racing fun. I can't wait to see what it feels like to be in one of these cars."
Coletti (photo at bottom of story), 25, of Monaco, placed sixth in the GP2 championship standings with two victories and won three times in finishing fifth in the 2013 standings.
“It’s been a long time that I’ve wanted to come to the States for racing. In 2008, I packed my bags and I almost came here. In the end it did not work out because my (Formula 3 Euro Series) contract was signed, and then my management preferred me to stay in Europe a bit longer,” said Coletti, who also had a seat fit Dec. 11. “I was always a dream to drive these big cars and see how they handle. I’m excited to be testing.
“I think the racing in IndyCar is amazing and that’s why I’ve always wanted to come here. I’ve always watched IndyCar races on TV and it’s a great show. When you look at the Indy 500, it’s something that you just don’t experience in Europe.”
Gonzalez, 28, of Venezuela, was a test driver for Marussia F1 Team the past two years. Gonzalez, Rocky Moran Jr. and Gabby Chaves, the 2014 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion, tested with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports at Homestead-Miami Speedway in September.
Also scheduled to test on the Sebring International Raceway short course before the testing window closes for the holidays:
Bryan Herta Autosport in partnership with BBM – Chaves and Daniel De Jong, who has made 52 starts in the GP2 series the past three years. De Jong, 22, of the Netherlands, also recently has competed in Auto GP.
Chip Ganassi Racing Teams – Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball and Sage Karam. Karam, 19, a Pennsylvania native and the 2013 Indy Lights champion, is a Chip Ganassi Racing Teams development driver. Karam made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut in the Indianapolis 500 in May, advancing 22 positions from his qualifying spot to finish ninth.
“The (test) is dissecting the season and understanding areas that need to be redefined,” said Dixon, the three-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion who placed third in the 2014 standings. “We’ll make sure our development is on course, mechanically at least, before bodywork kits arrive.”
The four drivers also are scheduled to initiate NOLA Motorsports Park with Verizon IndyCar Series cars Jan. 14 in advance of the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana in April.
Dixon (No. 9 Target car), Kanaan (No. 10 NTT DATA car) and Kimball (No. 83 Novo Nordisk) were confirmed this week for the upcoming 17-race season.