Juncos Racing continues to build a presence in the Verizon IndyCar Series, announcing today it has signed Austrian driver Rene Binder to compete in four races in the 2018 season.
Binder, 26, drove in World Series Formula V8 in 2017, winning four races and capturing two pole positions in the European development series. He is scheduled to drive the No. 32 Juncos Racing entry in the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg on March 11, as well as races at Barber Motorsports Park, the streets of Toronto and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Juncos Racing – a powerhouse in the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder sanctioned by INDYCAR – previously announced it would run 2017 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion Kyle Kaiser in at least four races this season. Kaiser is slated to compete in the events at Phoenix Raceway, Long Beach and both May events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS road course and the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on the iconic oval.
Binder, a native of Innsbruck, Austria, who also drove in GP2 from 2013-15, said he has followed Indy car racing since he was young, even though his career path kept him in Europe. He attended the 2017 season finale at Sonoma Raceway and is eager to experience more of the Verizon IndyCar Series as a competitor. It's believed he will be the first Austrian driver to compete in an Indy car race since Hubert Stromberger in 1995.
“In INDYCAR, it looks like every race has its special feeling and every race will be different,” Binder said. “I am looking forward to that.
“I am an INDYCAR fan for the pure racing aspect. The close competition, the traditional racetracks with bumps and limited runoff areas and, last but not least, the challenging race cars without power steering make it something special.”
Binder said he is eager to drive the 2018 Indy car that features the new universal aero kit for all competitors. He has been following closely what drivers who have tested the new kit have said about how – with the reduction in downforce from the previous manufacturer kits – it puts more emphasis on driver skill in the cockpit.
“I don’t know the old car, how it was, but the drivers what I read say that the new car is a bit more nervous and (has) less downforce, and is quite difficult to drive and quite challenging,” Binder said. “It’s not bad that I don’t know how the old car was. It looks definitely challenging.
“The other thing will be the circuits because the circuits are quite different from the ones that I’ve raced. Circuits like St. Petersburg or Long Beach are ones that I’ve always wanted to race because I like that kind of circuit – not a lot of runoff area, it’s bumpy. I really like it more than some of the Formula One circuits.”
For team owner Ricardo Juncos, the addition of Binder for at least four races is the next step toward fielding a full-time Verizon IndyCar Series entry by 2019. The team launched its Verizon IndyCar Series program at the 2017 Indianapolis 500, where Sebastian Saavedra finished 15th and Spencer Pigot 18th.
Now the proud owner of the reigning champions in Indy Lights and the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires – the top two tiers of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder – Juncos is meticulously building his Verizon IndyCar Series program in the same mold.
“I think he’s going to be good for us and also the series,” Juncos said of Binder. “He was deciding whether to stay in Europe and pursue Formula One or coming to INDYCAR. I think (Binder’s decision) speaks very good about the new INDYCAR progress. I think (INDYCAR executives) Mark Miles, Jay Frye, all these people are doing a great job. This is a little more proof, I think, of that.”
If more sponsorship can be secured, Binder, Kaiser or other drivers could be entered in additional events. Juncos knows that the more races his drivers and team can experience this year, the better it will make them down the road.
“My goal for 2018 is to get them to drive as much as they can,” Juncos said. “There’s a lot to do and a very difficult challenge to be in INDYCAR, but this way is the only way we can do it. And it’s going to help us big-time looking forward for ’19 and more.
“I’m already excited, happy about it. I think 2017 for us was by far the best season – Pro Mazda, Indy Lights, the INDYCAR debut. So I think everything is fine, everything is on plan. It’s not easy but we are going to try and keep making it happen.”