PALMETTO, Fla. — official release — Indy Lights photo —
Interest in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series, the final step on the Mazda Road to Indy, has grown markedly since unveiling and testing of the new AER-powered Dallara IL-15, which debuts in 2015.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian is the latest team to commit to the rejuvenated series, placing a two-car order as they prepare to campaign for their ninth Indy Lights title next season. Multiple car orders have already been placed by Belardi Auto Racing, Juncos Racing and McCormack Racing – who were first in line to order the new chassis.
To date, 10 teams are officially registered for next season and additional commitments and car orders are in the pipeline. Belardi Auto Racing, who guided Gabby Chaves to the 2014 series crown, recently announced the first driver signing for 2015 with FIA Formula 3 European talent Felix Serralles, 22, of Ponce, Puerto Rico, joining the squad.
“The interest level and enthusiasm for next season has been incredible,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “To have Sam [Schmidt] come on board with a two-car commitment speaks volumes. He is a stanch supporter of the series and we are excited to have the winningest Indy Lights team back in the paddock.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled with the caliber of teams that will be campaigning programs, and I fully expect to see 15 to 20 cars on the grid next March.”
Testing will begin in Florida in December and January with series tests at Palm Beach International Raceway on December 16/17 and Homestead-Miami Speedway on Jan. 26-27 (road course) and Jan. 29 (oval).
“Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is the only team that has competed in the Indy Lights series since its inception,” said team owner Sam Schmidt. “We believe that the series is a vital step to reach the Verizon IndyCar Series, and the number of current IndyCar drivers who previously participated in Indy Lights is proof that the system works. We are proud to announce our official entry into the series for 2015, and look forward to the incredible competition that will be created by the new chassis and its formula.”
The Dallara IL-15 prototype testing program concluded on Sept. 6 with five drivers handling development duties – Scott Dixon, the 2000 Indy Lights champion and three-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion; James Hinchcliffe, the 2010 Indy Lights championship runner-up and race-winning Verizon IndyCar Series driver; Tristan Vautier, the 2012 Indy Lights and 2011 Pro Mazda champion and 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year; Conor Daly, the 2011 Indy Lights race winner and 2010 Pro Mazda champion; and Chaves, who unofficially broke the track record on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.
Verizon IndyCar Series driver Josef Newgarden also provided valuable feedback during demonstration laps on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course at the Chris Griffis Memorial Open Test on Sept. 13-14, where the 2011 Indy Lights champion with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports unofficially shattered the track record by almost two seconds and gave rave reviews.
“After experiencing it, I would really like to run both championships next year,” said Newgarden. “I honestly would. If somehow we could work it out where I could run the Lights championship and IndyCar championship, I think it would be so much fun especially with a brand new car like this. It is such a proper race car and they did a really good job with it.”