They could call it the “Carlin Pipeline” because of the rich and impressive auto racing talent that have come through Trevor and Stephanie Carlin’s racing empire.
Many teams in Formula One either have worked with a former Carlin driver or hired a former Carlin mechanic or engineer. The team is one of the top operations in the European junior formulas of racing.
Such names as Formula One’s Robert Kubica, Sebastian Vettel, Brendon Hartley, Daniel Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat, Jean-Eric Vergne, Kevin Magnussen, Carlos Sainz Jr. and Lando Norris have driven in one of the many racing series in which Carlin competes. Antonio Felix da Costa of Portugal is one of the top DTM drivers who has come from the Carlin pipeline. Felipe Nasr is a top IMSA driver from Carlin.
The number of former Carlin drivers that have achieved stardom in INDYCAR is equally impressive. They include 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Takuma Sato, who drove for Carlin in 2000 and 2001. Team Penske’s Will Power, the 102nd Indianapolis 500 winner, drove for Carlin in 2005. Young INDYCAR star Colton Herta began racing for Carlin in the 2015 F4 British Championship. Also, Chip Ganassi Racing driver Marcus Ericsson, AJ Foyt Racing driver Charlie Kimball, Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey and Robert Wickens have raced Carlin entries in various series.
In 2015, Carlin came to Indy Lights with Ed Jones, Max Chilton and Nelson Piquet Jr. as his drivers. In 2016, Jones won the Indy Lights championship.
That led Carlin to its next step in North America, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, in 2018 with Chilton and Kimball as the two drivers.
In 2020, Carlin’s drivers will share the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet with Chilton racing on the street and road courses and the Indianapolis 500 and Conor Daly on the remaining ovals. Plans for the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet are still being finalized.
“That is the most satisfying thing that we do, really,” Carlin said of the drivers that have graduated from his team. “Some of these lads start out with us in Formula 4 or Formula 3 and they work their way through Carlin, initially. Once they are ready, they move on to the big time, whether it’s INDYCAR, Formula One or sports cars. When racing resumes, we are watching ex-Carlin drivers out there, and we are always rooting for them.
“The same thing applies to mechanics and engineers. We have trained an awful lot of mechanics and engineers that have reached the top of the sport. We love the sport and are proud to have played such a big part of it and help people get to the top.”
Carlin, 57, and his wife, Stephanie, run this racing organization that fields cars in so many series, it’s hard to keep track.
This year alone, the team will compete in INDYCAR, FIA Formula 2, FIA Formula 3, British Formula 3, EuroFormula Open Championship, F4 British Championship, European Le Mans Series and Asian Le Mans Series.
In the past, Carlin has competed in Indy Lights, A1 Grand Prix, Porsche Supercup, Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, Formula Renault 2.0 UK, Formula 3 Euro Series, British Formula 3 International Series, GP3, Formula Renault 3.5, Formula E, GP2 and European F3.
How did it all begin for this ambitious Englishman?
“I was a young guy, I was 18, and I was out of work,” Carlin said. “There was a little Formula Ford racing team where I lived. I loved racing. I loved cars. I knocked on their doors and asked if they needed any part-time work? From driving vans, delivering stuff, sweeping floors or making tea, I would like to do it. They were really busy at the moment and asked me to help out. I started doing some part-time work with them and slowly and surely stayed in the industry.
“That was in 1981. I have worked my way slowly but surely through being a mechanic, being a store man, being a salesperson for cars, I worked in the States for a couple of years in the mid-1980s. It all happened organically.
“I never dreamed of owning a team. I never dreamed of having a team with my name on it. It just happened, really, and it’s happened really well, so I’m very pleased.”
Carlin began his racing team in 1998. Since then it has developed a “Who’s Who” of motorsports.
The secret to Carlin’s success comes from his people.
“It’s by having really, really good people – good guys,” Carlin said. “We started out as a one-car Formula 3 team in 1998 and then grew to a two-car team, then a three-car team. We added more drivers and they wanted another challenge, so we moved into another category. Some regular Carlin guys were running that, and we had identical teams the way they operated. We kept that business model. We promote from within and use Carlin people to set up the new teams that we run.
“For me, it’s pretty easy. I’m dealing with the same people and operate in the same fashion with different vehicles, circuits and continents.”
Carlin’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES team is based in Delray Beach, Florida, which makes it one of the few teams in the series based outside of Indianapolis. Team Penske is based in Mooresville, North Carolina, and Dale Coyne Racing operates out of Plainfield, Illinois.
Carlin and his wife are based in England and oversee the entire racing operation. Colin Hale runs the INDYCAR team in Florida.
Stephanie is a key partner in the Carlin operation and has filled many roles throughout her career.
“Without Stephanie, I couldn’t do what I do,” Carlin said. “She was commercial director and PR manager to start with. She took care of the website and the drivers and the stories and the press. But as time has gone by and the team has grown, she has taken on more and more of the commercial responsibility regarding contracts, negotiations with drivers and sponsors.
“We’re sort of a double act. If I’m not at the track, Stephane knows how I feel and how I like things done, she gets on and takes care of it. It’s pretty seamless.
“There is no way the team could have grown and done what it has done without Stephanie.”
Although Carlin’s background is rooted in European racing, he views the NTT INDYCAR SERIES as the pinnacle.
“We are ambitious,” Carlin said. “That is why we kept growing. Formula One is ridiculously expensive and unachievable for a private team. INDYCAR, the way they control the costs, the way they promote the championship and the help they give the teams, it’s achievable. We are disappointed we haven’t had the results that we have wanted, but we have had a few top-six finishes. We are still growing. If we tried to do that in F1, we would never get in the top 15, let alone the top 10.
“We have done well, but we should do better, and I think we can do better. INDYCAR was the logical place for us to go.”